Judges are supposed to be impartial, but this doesn’t extend to sentiments expressed during the sentencing phase of criminal proceedings. Once a jury has declared a defendant guilty, remarks by judges are appropriate.
In the case of Christopher Travis Baker, the remarks by Oklahoma County District Judge Kenneth C. Watson were deserved.
“You are a disgrace to your family,” Watson told Baker, convicted of shooting an off-duty sheriff’s deputy making a bank deposit for a restaurant. The victim survived the shooting but is permanently affected by it. Watson sentenced Baker this week to life in prison plus 30 years.
Fellow judge Ray Elliott is known for his post-conviction remarks. He said this to a convicted embezzler: “You’re a thief, plain and simple.” After another trial, Elliott’s response to a defendant trying to justify her criminal behavior was to say, “I’m not buying it.”
Justice may be blind, but judges aren’t deaf and dumb. They’re human and entitled to give a lecture on occasion.