Oklahoma judge who texted constantly during trial that bored her finally resigns

Oklahoma District Judge Traci Soderstrom, taped by her own security cameras texting incessantly during jury selection in the trial of a man accused of killing a 2-year-old toddler, has agreed to quit and to not seek court office again. Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Kane IV wanted her gone and the alternative was imminent professional defenestration.

She had faced removal from the bench over accusations that included gross neglect of duty, oppression in office, lack of proper temperament and failure to supervise her office.

Soderstrom had been scheduled to go on trial in a special court starting Monday.

"I promised to uphold the Constitution in a fair, even-handed and efficient manner," Soderstrom said in a resignation letter given to local media. "I believe that I have done so. However, being human, I have also faltered."

I too have send hundreds upon hundreds of trash texts while the humans before me were engaged in the meaningless tangle of their lives. And the content of Soderstrom's texts surely made things worse for her.

The judge's texts during Martzall's trial on a charge of killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old son included saying the prosecutor was "sweating through his coat," according to Kane's petition. The texts described the defense attorney as "awesome" and asked "can I clap for her?" during the defense attorney's opening arguments. In all, Soderstrom sent more than 500 texts to her bailiff. Soderstrom also texted a laughing emoji icon to the bailiff, who had "made a crass and demeaning reference to the prosecuting attorneys' genitals," Kane wrote.

It wasn't her first rodeo, either. In fact, her court being a total rodeo is the context for all of the above.

According to allegations in the ethics petition:

  • In text messages, Soderstrom and the bailiff discussed which jury instructions would best fit their desired outcome. Soderstrom granted a request for an instruction on second-degree manslaughter, which has a sentence of two to four years in prison.

  • Soderstrom refused to rule on an objection to prosecution plans to call a doctor as an expert witness before jurors were sworn in and then barred the expert after a later hearing. The district attorney had sought a ruling before the swearing in to preserve the state's right to appeal the issue.

  • When a police officer took the stand, Soderstrom texted, "He's pretty. I could look at him all day." She and the bailiff also discussed whether a juror was wearing a wig, whether a witness had teeth, and whether a witness was "blinking uncontrollably."

  • Soderstrom commented in a text that the district attorney was "sweating thru his coat" during voir dire. The bailiff replied that the district attorney is "gross and a horrible speaker." Soderstrom also texted that a prosecutor "looks constipated" and, "Is that the oh s- – – look?"

  • Soderstrom commented in a text that jurors were going to hate the assistant district attorney, leading the bailiff to respond that he is "an arrogant ass- – – -." The bailiff then "made a crass and demeaning reference to the prosecuting attorney's genitals," to which Soderstrom replied with a "ha ha" icon, the petition said.

  • Soderstrom referred to the district attorney's "baby hands" in a text and said they were "weird looking." The bailiff replied, "I was told they were tiny lol."

  • Referencing the district attorney's office, Soderstrom said in a text, "They are not used to going up against competent attorneys." According to the petition, the comment was "implicitly dismissing the capabilities of the state's attorneys and the defense bar."

  • Soderstrom texted, "State just couldn't accept that a mom could kill their kid so they went after the next person available."

  • Soderstrom texted, "Can I please scream liar liar?" during the mother's testimony.

  • Soderstrom called the defense lawyer "awesome" in a text when the lawyer addressed jurors during voir dire.

Martzall was ultimately convicted of manslaughter and got time served.

Soderstrom in her official portrait, as framed by Fox 4 News