Gavel-in-hand

Another Texas judge has been reprimanded for shaming jurors—and for using her position as a jurist to improperly interject herself into a relative’s criminal case.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct recently concluded that Teresa Hawthorne, judge of Dallas’ 203rd District Court, shamed and reprimanded a jury for their verdict. Days earlier, the commission also disciplined Luis Aguilar, judge of El Paso’s 243rd District Court, for treating potential jurors so poorly that he reduced one person to tears.

According to the most recent reprimand, Hawthorne presided over a jury trial in 2016 in which a jury rendered a guilty verdict and assessed a 99-year prison sentence.

After the jury rendered its decision, Hawthorne told the jurors she was “disturbed” by their verdict, that she didn’t think the victim was raped, and that she would have found the defendant not guilty.

Some of her comments included: “I am disturbed by the way you came back with such a harsh verdict and sentence for this man’s life in such a short time. Did you even discuss the details of the case at all?”; that she “did not believe the victim was raped at all”; and that jurors were “too quick to judge the defendant.”

In her response to the commission, Hawthorne acknowledged that she told the jurors that she would have found the defendant not guilty, but denied that she shamed or reprimanded the jury. She also stated that she regrets “all this happened” but she could not lie to the jury when they asked her what she thought of the case.

The commission also reprimanded Hawthorne for her involvement in her nephew’s criminal case that was filed in Lubbock County. The commission concluded that Hawthorne had ex parte communications with the Lubbock judge assigned to the case and testified without a subpoena about her nephew’s character while referencing her position as a judge on three separate occasions.

Hawthorne denied that she had conversations about the case with the Lubbock judge but acknowledged that she was not subpoenaed to testify in her nephew’s case.

The commission concluded that Hawthorne had violated the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct by using the prestige of her office to help resolve her nephew’s criminal matter and by failing to treat jurors with respect by shaming and reprimanding them for their verdict. Hawthorne did not return a call for comment.