An Oklahoma judge is under fire after video surveillance showed her mindlessly scrolling through her phone as the mother of a murdered 2-year-old tearfully testified on the stand. Judge Traci Soderstrom was presiding over the pretrial, jury selection, and opening statements, and needless to say, her behavior hasn’t gone over well.
- The case related to the death of toddler Braxton Danker, who died in 2018 after suffering a cardiac arrest. Her mother, Judi Danker, and Judi’s boyfriend, Khristian Martzall, were later charged with first-degree murder.
- Soderstrom clearly wasn’t interested in Judi Danker’s testimony. That’s when the security camera caught the judge scrolling on her phone, typing texts and even looking for gifs at one point. Video of the courtroom was obtained and later released by The Oklahoman.
- One thing did get Soderstrom to look up for her phone. That’s when Judi Danker reached for a tissue to wipe away the freely flowing tears that came during her testimony. Well, that was nice of her!
- What’s rich is that the judge banned phones in the courtroom! She directly instructed the jury members to turn off their phones so that they could pay attention to the testimony that was given. While yes, it’s the jury’s job rather than the judge’s to decide guilt or innocence, something tells me Judge Soderstrom should be listening to what’s being said!
- The Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints has opened an investigation. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office reviewed the courtroom surveillance video and passed it on for further investigation. It’s unclear what, if any, repercussions she will face.
- For the record, it’s not illegal for the judge to use her phone. However, it is pretty frowned upon. The Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct states: “A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.” It doesn’t seem like Judge Soderstrom did that.
- Judge Soderstrom was only elected in November 2022. She was sworn in as the District 23 judge in January 2023. Spending “hours” texting and scrolling through your phone while presiding over a murder case doesn’t seem like appropriate behavior for her position, I don’t think…
- District Attorney Adam Panter certainly isn’t impressed with the judge. “Jurors are banned from using cellphones in the courtroom during trials because we expect them to give their full time and attention to the evidence being presented,” he said. “I would expect and hope the court would hold itself to the same standard required of the jurors, regardless of the type of case.” We’re all addicted to our phones, but take a break, lady.
- The 2-year-old’s mother was eventually found guilty of second-degree manslaughter. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison for enabling or permitting child abuse. Her partner was convicted of the same charge. It’s unclear whether or not it was Judge Soderstrom who handed down the sentence.