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Legal Ethics

Judge Who Married Defendant to Alleged Victim, Midtrial, Is Taken Off Bench

Posted Mar 17, 2010 5:48 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A Maryland judge who declared a break in an alleged batterer's misdemeanor domestic violence trial so he could marry the defendant to the claimed victim and prevent her from testifying against him has been taken off the bench.

As of today, Baltimore County District Judge Darrell Russell Jr. has been indefinitely assigned to his chambers, where he will review motions and civil cases, reports ABC News.

Last week he stopped the trial of Frederick Wood, 29, so that he and his unidentified 27-year-old girlfriend could get a marriage license. When they returned with the document, Russell married them in chambers. A spousal privilege can be asserted to prevent husband and wife from testifying against each other.

"It's very frustrating. We view very seriously the crime of domestic violence," says Deputy State's Attorney Leo Ryan. "We understand that very often the nature of this crime means the victims are reluctant to testify."

The network includes a link to an audio recording of the court hearing that Russell paused for the wedding. At its conclusion, the judge notes that he can't sentence Wood for any crime, since he found the defendant not guilty. "But earlier today," the judge adds, "I sentenced you to life married to her."

Additional coverage:

11 News I-Team: "I-Team: Judge Married Woman, Suspected Abuser"

WPTZ.com: "Abuse Suspect, Fiance Wed On Hearing Day"

Updated at 6:27 p.m. to link to WPTZ article.

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