When God Tells the Judge that You are Not Guilty…

A judge in Texas interrupted deliberations to let a jury know that God wanted a not-guilty verdict.

District Judge Jack Robison told jurors that the Creator of the Universe had told him to intervene on behalf of a woman accused of trafficking a teenage girl for sex.

“When God tells me to do something, I gotta do it,” Robison told the jury.

The jurors ignored the will of Robison – and, apparently, of God – and found Gloria Romero-Perez guilty. Robison then recused himself before the sentencing phase. Romero-Perez’s attorney, not surprisingly, asked for a mistrial, but the new judge denied the request. The jury sentenced Romero-Perez to 25 years in prison.

The judge has been reprimanded before by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which, in 2011, said Robison “exceeded the scope of his authority and failed to comply with the law” when he jailed a man for contempt of court without allowing a hearing.

Judges Decide the Law and Jurors Decide the Facts

This may seem obvious, but judges are not supposed to tell juries what verdict to reach. Even when God tells them to. It’s kind of the whole point of having jurors – they listen to the evidence presented at trial and then independently return a verdict.

Judges often aid and advise juries, but they are expected to keep their opinions regarding the facts – and what the verdict should be – to themselves. They are expected to not advocate for one side or the other in a trial, and doing so invades the province of the jury.

In practice, judges get a good deal of latitude when it comes to expressing their opinions, and some judges find ways to signal their opinions to the jurors. But, Robison crossed a line by showing a clear bias and by invoking God when urging the jury to find the defendant not guilty.

What if a judge instead tells a jury to reach a guilty verdict, and it turns out the defendant is innocent? While the Texas jury ignored Robison’s revelatory comments, judges can have tremendous influence over jurors, and many Americans who serve on juries could be especially moved by appeals supposedly passed down from God. This is why it is important for judges to take care not to influence a jury by advocating for one side or the other in a case.

Inadmissible Hearsay? Denial of Right to Confrontation?

H/T to Elie Mystal of Above the Law who points out that Robison’s statement amounted to hearsay because the defense was not given an opportunity to cross-examine God.

Also, a sample question from future MPRE bar exams in Texas:

What should you do if your judge starts speaking to God during the trial?

A: Object.
B: Request a mistrial.
C: GET OUT OF THERE. GET OUT OF THERE BEFORE THE RITUAL SACRIFICES START!

Horry County Criminal Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach SC

Attorney Daniel Selwa represents clients accused of crimes throughout the Myrtle Beach, Conway, Georgetown, and Horry County areas. If you have been charged with a crime, call Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer Daniel Selwa at (843) 492-5449 or fill out the online contact form to set up a free consultation.

 

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