Oklahoma Judge Resigns After Texting During Murder Trial
Traci Soderstrom, a former judge for Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties in Oklahoma, has resigned from her position following a scandal involving her inappropriate use of electronic devices during a murder trial. Soderstrom’s behavior came to light through security footage, which showed her constantly on her phone during the trial of Khristian Tyler Martzall, who was accused of killing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in 2018.
An investigation conducted by the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that Soderstrom had exchanged over 500 text messages with her bailiff during the trial. These messages included offensive language, mockery of attorneys, jurors, and witnesses, and derision towards the state’s attorneys. In a petition filed by Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice M. John Kane IV, it was revealed that Soderstrom and her bailiff displayed bias in favor of the defendant and exhibited gross partiality against the State.
Soderstrom publicly apologized for her actions and acknowledged the inappropriateness of texting during a trial. She emphasized that regardless of the type of case, her behavior was unacceptable. However, she disputed some of the claims made against her, including the content and volume of the messages and any bias she allegedly displayed.
Despite her resignation, Soderstrom faced trial in a special court only three days after stepping down. However, an order of dismissal in the case was filed, stating that she had voluntarily resigned and agreed to never seek another judicial position in the state of Oklahoma.
Soderstrom was elected as a judge in November 2022 and began her tenure in January 2023. The incident regarding her texting during the murder trial occurred just six months into her term. The defendant, Khristian Tyler Martzall, was eventually found guilty of second-degree manslaughter by a jury and received a sentence of time served.
The resignation of Traci Soderstrom highlights the importance of judicial integrity and impartiality. The incident raises questions about the appropriate use of electronic devices by judges during trials and the potential impact on due process. Moving forward, it is imperative to maintain strict guidelines and ensure the utmost professionalism in the courtroom to uphold the integrity of the justice system.