Legal Ethics

Judge is admonished for 'highly inappropriate' exchange with defendant

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A Georgia judge has been admonished for an exchange with a difficult murder defendant in which the judge used a gay slur and challenged the suspect to carry out a masturbation threat.

Judge Bryant Durham Jr. of Floyd County was admonished in a letter after reporting himself to the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, report the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Rome News-Tribune. He has agreed to undergo counseling.

The defendant, Denver Fenton Allen, was accused of beating another inmate to death. In a June 17 hearing, Allen told the judge, “F— you” and repeatedly implored him to “s— my d—.” Allen also threatened to cut Durham’s children into pieces and “knock their brains out with a [f—–] hammer and feed them to you.” Durham said he has no children, spurring Allen to threaten other relatives, including the judge’s “grandkids.”

Durham said he was sentencing Allen for contempt and repeatedly increased the sentence as the defendant responded with X-rated insults. As Allen continued to make crude sexual references, Durham said, “I’m sure the women would love it.” Allen responded that he has sex with only “white boys.”

“Oh of course,” Durham responded. “You know, you look like a queer.”

At another point, Allen said he would “pull it out and jack on you.” Durham responded “OK” and said, “Why don’t you do that right now.”

The letter said that, rather than de-escalating the situation, Durham “engaged Mr. Allen and made a number of remarks which you, by your own admission, know were highly inappropriate.”

The letter added that Durham had taken full responsibility for his “improper and intemperate remarks” and the commission was impressed by his “candor, sincerity and contrition.” The letter also noted that Durham immediately recused himself from the case.

“The commission also is convinced that you learned from this experience and will not allow yourself to be drawn into this kind of exchange again,” the letter said.

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