ABA Journal



Judge pulls over to aid crash victim, a defendant on the way to her court

Feb 13, 2014, 01:34 pm CST


“If I could make all of their charges go away, I would.” After a statement like that, there is not much to "consider" regarding her recusal. Still, a nice story.

By NoleLaw on 2014 02 13, 2:08 pm CST

What a naive statement. People are not black and white. You can be a do-gooder who will stop and help an accident victim and commit a crime. Hopefully, this judge doesn't make these kind of emotional decisions every time she is on the bench.

By Denise Martin on 2014 02 13, 4:27 pm CST

She can recuse herself then show up as a character witness. If the defendant is guilty then some type of judicial intervention to see that he gets back on the right track in life, as opposed to dropped mindlessly into the system like most are, would be best for everybody.

By Michael on 2014 02 13, 6:52 pm CST

I am all for everyone getting a hand up in creating a new life. I agree that the judge should testify on their behalf. But to just assume that since they were a Good Samaritan today that the victims of their crimes don't deserve justice. I have experienced the fallout of not assuming a nice person can commit a crime that viciously harms people. The two are separate. Good people do bad things too.

By Denise Martin on 2014 02 13, 7:06 pm CST

Denise Martin your comment at #2 reeks of the very naivete that you complain of. What the judge is referring to might best be described as mitigating arguments that would go towards any sentencing. This is the type of information that would be derived from any pre-sentence report ordered by the court, and from experience, has a very persuasive effect at sentencing.

By The Artist Formerly Known As Bakes on 2014 02 13, 9:03 pm CST

Wait a minute. Her comment wasn't about fair, humane sentencing. She said she would make the charges go away because they were nice people who reached out in a crisis. What does that have to do with the charges against them that she hasn't heard the case on yet?

By Denise Martin on 2014 02 13, 9:08 pm CST

It's a small world when a judge helps a traffic victim who happens to be a party before her court. She admitted her out of court contact influenced her in favor of defendant. It wouldn't be fair to prosecutor if she didnt recuse herself.

By Adel on 2014 02 13, 10:32 pm CST

Denise have you ever represented a client in criminal court?

By The Artist Formerly Known As Bakes on 2014 02 14, 4:38 am CST

TAFKAB, did you read the article? Or Denise's comment where she quoted what the judge said?

By emjaycee on 2014 02 14, 3:51 pm CST

Thank you TAFKAB. I stand by my opinion.

By Denise Martin on 2014 02 14, 5:35 pm CST

I meant thank you emjaycee.

By Denise Martin on 2014 02 14, 5:35 pm CST

Intelligent and well-educated people that live in other countries, and who are not the least bit "soft on crime", think we Americans are very harsh with respect to our punishments because we are generally out of touch with our fellow citizens and a common sense understanding of human nature. To suggest that a person with the instinct to be a Good Samaritan must receive "justice" as we Americans seem to conceive (i.e., in a hermetically sealed court of law), is to admit that our society is utterly unprepared to effect justice as most human beings would conceive it. Cold-hearted murderers and anyone who would deal drugs to children should be treated with little compassion. I think most non-Americans would agree. But the fact remains that the United States, a capitalist utopia in the eyes of some, incarcerates more souls than the vast majority of nations---certainly among liberal democracies (as opposed to illiberal democracies).

By Jim on 2014 02 14, 7:26 pm CST


I read the article, and I read Denise's comments. Anything else I can answer for you?

Denise you're perfectly entitled to your opinion... I'm just trying to illustrate for you how your criticism of the judge is misplace. My question wasn't meant to silence or to embarrass you, just to confirm my suspicion. The courtroom is a foreign place for far too many attorneys (assuming you are an attorney). Judge's frequently opine (typically at sentencing) that they wish they had the freedom to increase/reduce the penalty available to a defendant. This is fairly routine and non-controversial. You criticized the judge for showing poor judgement when in fact she displayed quite the opposite. She recognized that the circumstances gave rise to a pcotential onflict of interest, and indicated a willingness to recuse herself. This is commendable, not condemnable that she has vocalized this and give it thought, rather than keep it to herself and possibly compromise the impartiality of the bench. It is a human r, reaction, and judges, like all of us, are humans.

By The Artist Formerly Known As Bakes on 2014 02 15, 5:14 am CST

@13 - You're digging yourself a bigger hole. The quote in the article is about dismissing charges, not imposing a lenient sentence. If you have additional information about statements made by the judge, please share it.

@12 - Yes.

By NoleLaw on 2014 02 15, 1:17 pm CST

I am only reacting to her comment that she would have just thrown out the charges because she witnessed the defendant offering loving service in an emergency. their are victims involved in the crime they committed and they deserve justice even if the criminal is a nice guy. Liberal sentencing is a whole other argument!

By Denise Martin on 2014 02 15, 4:43 pm CST


Hopefully at the bottom of that hole we can find you some reading comprehension. The judge said nothing about "dismissing charges", because unlike you she understands that a judge cannot dismiss charges sua sponte. What she said was that IF she could make the charges go away she would... the implication being if she had the discretion to she would. Judges are given discretion for just this purpose, to employ it as befits the circumstances.

“If I could make all of their charges go away, I would,” is a fantastic statement... as in the stuff of fantasy. Sort of like "if I had a million dollars..." The judge understands this, as would any courtroom practitioner... we see and hear it all the time without ever having to question the judgment of the court, because we understand the context. Not so with internet lawyers who live to hang onto every word, parsing and nitpicking so as to sate themselves in their apparent need to see their own opinions echoed on their computer screen. That's metaphorical language, lest you should compulsively feel the need to nitpick once more.

By The Artist Formerly Known As Bakes on 2014 02 15, 5:54 pm CST

Denise that's a very fanciful but ultimately meaningless sentiment. The judge is familiar with all of the defendants, it's a small jurisdiction and they previously appeared before her for arraignments. She's well-familiar with their alleged crimes and the penalties they face. Hypothetically speaking, justice for the victims isn't contingent on the penalties handed down by the court. If a defendant is given community service or probation before judgment (where the charges are dropped after a compliance period) is that "justice"? Criminal sentencing is all about the deterrent effect, specific and general, as well as for the benefit (usually safety) of the community. Very seldom is it about specific "justice" for the victims.

By The Artist Formerly Known As Bakes on 2014 02 15, 5:58 pm CST

To The Artist - Now that changes the argument some. If she knew them and the case INTIMATELY and her expert opinion after viewing their human character was that she would have thrown it out - I am with you. I did not get those details from the article, whether it was my oversight or it wasn't stated - don't have time to go back and look. I was reacting to the judge saying she would throw the charges out just because she witnessed them being Good Samaritans.

I have been involved with two criminal cases - one still ongoing where I am the key witness against a person who could spin a whole community into thinking they were lily white, always selfless, and certainly not a criminal. Their whole lives were lies and carefully staged "Niceness". In both cases it took years to undo the lie and expose the true nature of the criminal. Judges made mistakes based on inaccurate conclusions about character.

So yeah it was an off the cuff remark, but it meant something to me having been on the REAL receiving end of a judges sentiment that was wrong and the criminal went on to do more harm against me and my family until the judge involved said, "Whoops!"

For the record, I got my degree from the University of Google. I was forced to become a lawyer, broke and on the run, fleeing an abusive baby daddy whose lawyer happened to be the first judge's BFF. The court slammed me and the child hard until daddy acted out so badly in court that the judge was forced to tuck tale and change sides. I won a landmark decision Pro Se against one of the most crooked family law courts in the country by uploading it all to Youtube while it was unfolding.

In my current case I litigated two trials and wrote an Appeal and Supreme Court petition with seasoned lawyers telling me that I knew more then they did on this - they didn't want to comment. I hammered the police and the DA until they finally arrested and piled on the charges that are going to put the lying, Good Samaritan that devastated my life in jail and expose the judges and TV station that fell for her act. It is a huge case involving half of Oregon and I brought it all forward myself by attending to the micro details, like the one in this story that jumped in my face.

My apologies if you don't like my opinion but I have earned my right to comment here. I got my bar card when a judge made a decision based on lies and put my 4 year-old in the hands of a monster for two weeks. They put me in jail for trying to protect the child. I then litigated my ass off and got daddy totally removed from our lives by the judge in charge of the whole mess.

By Denise Martin on 2014 02 15, 6:26 pm CST

Denise, thanks for sharing your story... and shedding light on your perspective in the process. The additional details are available from the linked article from the Albuquerque Journal. I am intimately familiar with the criminal courtroom, having first served as a prosecutor, and later a defense attorney... which I continue to do on occasion today. Again, my point in asking the question wasn't to shame you into silence, but rather to illustrate that the more time one spends in the courtroom, the more one's perspective changes and the greater appreciation one develops for the people involved.

Like you, I too know what it feels like to be a victim, and then be victimized by the 'justice' system. Without going into too much detail, about 14 years ago, before I became a lawyer I had to help my mom file suit pro se after none of the attorneys we contacted would take her wrongful termination case. I was working as a legal assistant then as I prepared for the LSAT. Even so, I barely knew what I was doing... didn't even know what "Title VII" (the appropriate federal statute) was. We prevailed or sorts, settling the case 4 years later for much less than it was worth, but under the circumstances (my 60-year old mother having to litigate the case herself). The sting of watching the emotional pain (injustice piled upon injustice) exacted on my mother lingers with me to this day. Perhaps the lowest point was having to sit in silence (not being a party to the matter), as the judge loudly berated my mother for having the temerity to demand too much, in the judge's estimation, in compensation in her complaint. The best part? Working with opposing counsel... she was an angel sent from heaven. Her and my mom even tearfully embraced at the end of it all.

So I understand your frustration with judges, and with the system in general. My apologies if I sounded scolding towards you, that wasn't my intent. Far too often though do commenters on this website verbally attack judges, and many times they do so unnecessarily and unfairly. In this case the judge spoke honestly and from the heart, I understand the confusion (and frustration) that some may have felt as a result of what she said. As you stated, things are seldom binary (all one or the other), there are many sides to human beings, many sides to criminal defendants. Judges understand this as well, sometimes it plays a factor in their judgment, and sometimes it does not. I think this judge was just being honest, and acknowledges the potential problems resulting from her conflicting emotions.

By The Artist Formerly Known As Bakes on 2014 02 15, 8:33 pm CST

Goodness, another commenter criticizing others' reading comprehension without bothering to exercise any of his/her own. Bakes, where did I suggest that the judge was going to sua sponte dismiss the charges against the defendants? Still, her statement easily reveals the potential perception of bias that would require her recusal should the prosecution ask for it.

Now, since you are such an expert in criminal procedure, please enlighten the rest of us where during sentencing a judge can "make all [...] charges go away" as part of mitigation? Or do you know what the judge meant to say better than the judge herself?

By NoleLaw on 2014 02 15, 9:06 pm CST

<b>"Bakes, where did I suggest that the judge was going to sua sponte dismiss the charges against the defendants?"</b>

<i>The quote in the article is about dismissing charges</i>

The quote in the charges say nothing about "dismissing": charges... those are your words. The context of the entire chain of commentary between Denis and myself (before you made yourself a party) dealt exclusively with the judge's actions. By inserting yourself into the mix you made yourself a part of that context... and the specific context of your comment was about the judge acting of her own volition, since nowhere, not in the article, not in the commentary that flowed, did anyone mention the prosecution's involvement in "making the charges go away." Don't bother wasting your time trying to indict or impugn my reading comprehension, it is both well-developed, and fully intact.

I claim no particular expertise in criminal procedure... and I think my comments make it clear that it is unlikely that the judge was speaking literally. Or did you not understand the meaning of "fantastic"? I don't claim to know what the judge said better than the judge herself, I do believe that I have a better understanding of her meaning, based on my experience and based on a fuller appreciation of the facts of this situation, than you do.

By The Artist Formerly Known As Bakes on 2014 02 15, 9:47 pm CST

You get a 50% for reading comprehension, that's an F.

While I did say that the judge's statement implicated dismissing charges, I nowhere suggested anything about any sua sponte action. In fact, neither did you in the "context" into which I interjected myself, the first reference to sua sponte action being yours @ 16 responding to my post. Additionally, you are incorrect that a judge cannot dismiss a case sua sponte. At worst, such a dismissal could be reviewed and reversed by a higher court. But that's really beside the point.

By NoleLaw on 2014 02 15, 11:19 pm CST

Another situation where the comments have swallowed the article. I love the implication that the judge should not have let her feelings be known. She should have, I guess, kept quiet about the fact that she knew more about the character of these defendants than might have come out as evidence. She should have concealed this bias which she knew to influence her decisions.

Over 30 years of trial experience has made it clear to me that biased jurors may serve if they are not asked about the specific feelings they hold or, admitting such feelings, express the belief that they can make a fair decision based on the evidence and the law in spite of their personal beliefs. Judges too, may be less than impartial. They often let known their relationship to the parties, witnesses, or facts and express their view that clients should be alerted to the opportunity to object to their service even though they feel that such partiality does not interfere with any decision they may be called upon to make. On numerous occasions, judges have recused themselves and in doing so have usually explained their reasons. Should they have simply kept quiet?

By John in Florida on 2014 02 16, 12:24 am CST

Hi Artist - Thanks for the personal response. For the record I don't have a bad taste in my mouth for judges. The FED "Referee" that put us on the street in a 7 minute trial where no evidence was allowed is a good judge. I watched him try difficult, heart-wrenching cases with patience and heart. He screwed us over because the press was there and he was totally intimidated by the situation. When I saw him again he apologized in open court - but it was too late - our family had lost everything. But I don't blame him. It was the lie that caused the problem. But his poor judge of character screwed the case. Neither the TV cameras nor a car accident on the way to court should affect the facts. More lenient sentencing for remorseful, appropriate defends - sure if it doesn't harm the vicitms!

By Denise Martin on 2014 02 16, 4:55 pm CST

Artist - I'll probably get thrown off the site but - whatever. Is it appropriate to ask to network with you off the site? My lying defendant is about to go to jail and my libel suit is worth millions. The TV station is hiding and moving the guilty reporters hoping I will go away. Obviously, I am not a go away kinda gal but don't think my Pro Se skills are going to hold up against a Media Giant's legal team - but the case will.

By Denise Martin on 2014 02 16, 5:01 pm CST

Denise, feel free to contact me at This is my 'spam' email account, but once we establish contact I will give you my official contact info.

By The Artist Formerly Known As Bakes on 2014 02 16, 11:21 pm CST

At least the judge knew they weren't all making up a phony excuse for being late to court. I agree that she should recuse under the circumstances.

By B. McLeod on 2014 02 17, 2:49 am CST

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