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COURT: Alameda County Superior APPOINTED: 1990 by Gov. George Deukmejian DATE OF BIRTH: May 23, 1938 LAW SCHOOL: Boalt Hall School of Law PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Municipal court judge, Oakland Piedmont Emeryville judicial district. Appointed to municipal court in 1986 by Deukmejian. After a few minutes, it was clear to everyone in the courtroom that the stay-at-home mom had to go. The prospective death penalty trial juror wrote in a questionnaire that she would favor execution if a defendant had priors. When she was later questioned in court, the woman said that she would send the two defendants to death row if the victim’s death wasn’t accidental. “If they did it on purpose,” the bespectacled brunette explained, “that’s bad.” That’s all Alameda County Judge Jeffrey Horner needed to hear. The prosecutor asked that the woman be excused for cause, and Horner agreed. “I have formed an opinion based on her responses and by the jury questionnaire . . . that she could not perform her duties,” the judge said. Horner presides over felony trials and is one of six county judges who handle death penalty cases. Lawyers say the former prosecutor is a hard worker who listens carefully to both sides. Although the lawyers interviewed for this story said they got a fair shake, they also acknowledge that the judge has a pro-prosecution reputation. Perhaps that’s because Horner came to the bench after a 20-year career as an Alameda County prosecutor. He headed the DA’s Berkeley branch office before he was appointed to the municipal court in 1986. Four years later he was elevated to the superior court. Horner says it’s fair for attorneys to wonder abut a judge’s leanings, and new judges struggle to put aside their advocacy role when they come to the bench. “I think that I have done that,” the judge added. Death penalty trials are exacting work for attorneys and judges, and several lawyers praised Horner’s work ethic. The judge is a meticulous researcher who often works late, they said. “Be ready, especially on the law, because he is a prodigious worker,” said Senior Deputy DA Colton Carmine. “Some judges rely on the sides to present authorities. Horner wants to satisfy himself that he has gotten to the bottom of it.” “Have case cites and case authority for every issue,” prosecutor Angela Backers added. Backers said she tried a murder case that involved a complicated mental defense and the case became a “trial of experts” — which required the judge to constantly refer to her brief and the law to make sure expert testimony stayed within the legal boundaries. Horner said he prides himself on thoroughly understanding applicable law. “I want to read everything that the attorneys give me,” said the judge, who has legal tomes with bookmarks stacked on the bench. “And if those cases cite cases, I will read those too.” A defense lawyer said Horner’s experience shows in death penalty cases. “He knows death penalty law incredibly well,” said Lorna Brown, who tried a murder case opposite prosecutor Backers. As far as any pro-prosecution bias is concerned, Brown said she has heard that Horner would not let her “put on her case” — but once in trial she encountered no problems. “We got the best trial we could have gotten,” said Brown, noting that the murder victim in her case was a child and her client was sentenced to death. “I don’t feel that we were curtailed in any way.” Carmine said he actually heard that defense attorneys liked Horner because he’s even-handed. That said, Carmine noted that that if Horner has discretion to sentence, he hands down stiff sentences. “He is not the type of judge to give you a lenient sentence once you are convicted,” the prosecutor said. The judge bristled at the sentencing comments. “I am aware of protecting public safety,” he said. Horner says he has few expectations of attorneys, but a big one is that they be punctual. “I think that it’s an important aspect in a jury trial,” Horner said. Jurors “make a tremendous commitment, especially in a long trial. We owe it to them that when we say that we will start at 9:30, that we do that.” The judge said he’s lucky because many of the best attorneys in the area argue before him each day. He also relishes his Friday assignment finalizing adoptions. “That is far and away the best assignment,” he said. “You put families together.” You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges at www.therecorder.com/profiles.htmlor by calling 415-749-5523.

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