Franklin County municipal judge Amy Salerno chewed out a jury for failing to reach a guilty verdict in a criminal assault trial, reports WSYX ABC6.
The incident happened in open court in Salerno’s courtroom, where presumably the Sixth Amendment right to a trial “by an impartial jury of the State and district” is supposed to be enforced.
After Salerno, a Republican, berated the jury about its verdict, another judge had to dismiss potential jurors for a separate trial who had heard her outburst. The dismissal caused a delay for that trial.
As Above the Law notes, a commenter at the news website Topix claiming to have witnessed the scene alleged that one of the jurors began to cry after Salerno’s scolding. Another juror reportedly sought an escort home because she worried about the potent combination of the judge’s tongue-lashing mixed with the raw, unhappy reactions of the prosecution’s star witness and the victim’s family.
Four jury members later complained about the incident to James Green, the administrative judge of the Franklin County Municipal Court.
“The judge came off the bench, and she indicated she thought they had gotten the verdict wrong,” Green told WSYX. “They were further told, 99 percent of the time, the jury gets it right. It’s now 98 percent. They brought that percentage down by getting it wrong.”
According to the ABC affiliate, at least one juror also told Green that Salerno further promised that the jury’s acquittal didn’t matter.
“They reported to me [that] she made a comment to them, it was okay because she would have another chance to get this defendant because he had other charges pending,” the administrative judge said.
Judge Green, who is also a Republican, isn’t demanding Salerno’s removal. He did say, however, that is considering — considering — going to the Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Council with the jurors’ horror story.
Green also said that Salerno shouldn’t be the judge in any future court proceedings involving the unidentified defendant.
“It is my intention to ask the judge to recuse herself on any matters involving this defendant,” Green said.
On Monday, Salerno released a statement about her grossly unbecoming actions.
“I was deeply surprised by the jury’s verdict in this case, and failed to contain my surprise,” her statement said. “I am deeply sorry if my words in any way have offended. I can appreciate how they may have been taken in some other way.”
A 2009 article in Columbus Monthly rated the 15 municipal court judges in Ohio’s capital city. The ratings were based on a poll taken by the Columbus Bar Association. Salerno was ranked at dead last in every single category: objectivity, judicial temperament, legal knowledge, sentencing and timeliness.
According to the Franklin County Republican Party’s website, Salerno is on a slate of judges up for reelection in 2013.