Here’s one of my pet peeves in modern court room news reporting: Newspaper writes lengthy article about crimes alleged to have been committed, which are lifted straight from the police report or arrest warrant affidavit1 and then, without context, states that “the defendant pled not guilty in court”. Rage ensues in the comments, impugning the chastity of the defendant, his mother, the lawyer, the judge, Lady Justice and, of course, Barack Obama.
The reality, of course, is that everyone pleads not guilty on their first day of court for a variety of reasons, the most relevant of which is that it’s the first fucking day in court and no one in their right mind is going to plead guilty2. It’s just a formal way of starting the criminal process: a person pleads not guilty, is appointed a lawyer and gets a new court date. As routine as putting a car in first gear once you’ve started it.
Even with someone you “know” is guilty, there are things to do. Because this is an adversarial system and part of that is determining whether the prosecution can prove its case, what specific crimes it can prove and what the appropriate sentence should be. All of that requires at least some preparation, like, I don’t know, finding a reason for the defendant to not get the maximum sentence every time.
Think about it. If you were arrested and charged with something you actually did, should a judge just automatically impose the most severe punishment associated with that crime? Obviously not. And so everyone pleads not guilty, because determining what the punishment should be also takes some time and requires work. Everyone knows that. Except people who comment on newspaper articles online. And Judge Julie Lynch of Ohio.
Judge Julie Lynch of Ohio apparently has never stepped foot in an arraignment courtroom. She was somehow selected to preside over some sort of arraignment of Matthew Cordle who was indicted on Monday after having posted this video on Youtube confessing to killing someone during a drunk-driving accident in June. I haven’t seen it and I don’t want to, but you can. Apparently he confesses and more importantly states that he wants to take full responsibility for his actions. Good for him.
But first, he must be arraigned. And arraignments mean “not guilty” pleas. And “not guilty” somehow signifies to this erstwhile seasoned jurist that he’s not taking responsibility.
So she loses her shit. You can see her visibly shaking, addressing people presumably sitting in the jury box. She apologizes to them for this “waste of time” and rambles on about an “independent judiciary” and implies that the defendant is judge shopping.
If Judge Julie Lynch were my sentencing judge, I’d judge shop too. If there were any doubt that the defense attorney’s decision to plead not guilty and get a randomly assigned judge to pronounce the sentence the next day was the right one, it should be dispelled after observing her despicable behavior on the bench.
Someone needed to take her aside and remind her that she’s a judge, not Nancy Grace.
It’s entirely possible that the attorneys told her off the record that he was going to plead guilty and then changed their mind and switched at the last second. I get how that would annoy a judge.
But her response is disproportionate. Her response is that of someone who’s been denied the opportunity to put on a show for everyone in the country who’s watching on HLN and CNN and StupidTV. Her demeanor reeks of someone who doesn’t value her responsibilities and power and the need to maintain a judicial demeanor. She is someone who isn’t concerned with the appearance of the judicial system, but rather her appearance in the judicial system.
When you’re more preoccupied with the appearance of justice rather than the administration of it, it’s a safe bet that you don’t give a shit about anyone other than yourself.
That’s reason enough for me to stay away from Judge Julie Lynch.
H/T: Jeremy Donnelly