On Thursday, July 20, 2023, ABC4 reported that newly elected Lincoln County District Judge Tracy Soderstrom was captured on security camera engaging in distracting activities such as texting and scrolling through social media on her cellphone during the trial of  Khristian Tyler Martzall, the accused in the fatal beating of 2-year-0ld Braxton Danker.

The security video obtained by The Oklahoman newspaper raised serious concerns about the conduct of Judge Soderstrom during the trial. The footage shows her engaged in activities unrelated to the proceedings, such as texting, messaging, and browsing Facebook. These acts occurred during crucial moments of the trial, including jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony. The video even captured a moment where she searches for a GIF, an animated image.

It was reported that the videos show the judge was observed holding the phone in her lap and keeping it below the top of the judge’s bench while using it, or at times, setting it down in an open drawer.

Judge Soderstrom, 50, was newly elected in November and began her term in January. The video conference has prompted concerns about her ability to fulfill her duties effectively and impartially. While Soderstrom declined to comment on the matter, saying judges are prohibited from discussing pending cases.

The trial concluded with a second-degree manslaughter conviction for Martzall, despite prosecutors seeking a first-degree murder charge.

Sheriff Charlie Dougherty has provided the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints, with video footage from the trial. Dougherty justified the presence of cameras in the courtroom as a safety measure and clarified that the video provided does not include any audio and is monitored by his office.

The director of the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints, Taylor Henderson, stated that they cannot publicly discuss their investigations as they are confidential, similar to grand jury proceedings.

“It is both shocking and disappointing,” District Attorney Adam Panter said. “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. I would expect and hope the court would hold itself to the same standard required of the jurors, regardless of the type of case,” Panter added.

Panter clarified that he did not witness the judge using the phone herself.

On the other hand, defense attorney Velia Lopez expressed her positive opinion about Soderstrom’s performance, stating that she did an excellent job and that she never saw Soderstrom on the phone during the trial.


Source: ABC4