Legal Ethics

Judge censured for comments he made to defendant sentenced to 'rot in prison'

An Oregon judge was censured (PDF) by the Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday for comments he made when sentencing a defendant to life in prison for his sexual abuse of two 12-year-old boys.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Tim Barnack said at the sentencing that defendant Richard Lee Taylor, then 59, is a bad person and will “rot in prison,” the Mail Tribune reported at the time.

He also commented that the community might well wonder why Taylor is not “hanging from a tree,” KGW reports.

Barnack admitted that he lost control of his emotions and sent an email apologizing to other county judges.

In a Thursday press release (PDF), the supreme court said Barnack had been traumatized by video recordings used as evidence in the case and had sought counseling and taken other measures to avoid such conduct on the bench in the future.

Barnack’s comments at sentencing violated legal ethics rules including one that requires a judge to follow high standards of conduct to preserve the integrity, impartiality and independence of the bench, the release says.

Additional coverage:

Mail Tribune (opinion): “Criminal sentencing: When should judges stop judging?”

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