Judicial Misconduct or Judicial Discretion

The goal of this presentation is to create an open and honest dialogue about the criminal justice system and those taxed with the responsibility of ensuring a fair and just system through inclusion, diversity, and with public safety in mind. Attendees will learn about local, state, federal, and international cases and will be afforded an opportunity to be the "trier of fact" and play a role in sanctioning the sanctioners.

Case Break 1 | CB1

A Historical Perspective and Case Analyses

Wednesday, February 15, 2023 | 7:15 AM – 7:45 AM | CE Hour: .5

Impact Statement

This presentation will impact the forensic science community by reminding all attendees of their role in making positive and effective changes to the criminal justice system by focusing on fairness to all parties and accountability for all people involved, through collaborative research and practice with multiple disciplines.

The judiciary is a system of courts and judges interpreting the laws passed by the legislature. The judiciary has evolved over the past thousand years and continues to change in an attempt to meet the needs of society. The makeup of the judiciary originated with a Lord or his stewards and continued to evolve to the elected and appointed judges today. "The very first judges . . . were court officials who had particular experience in advising the King . . .".1 The earliest days of the judiciary, prior to the 12th century, was barbaric at best and based on a type of divine justice.

Divine justice could involve the accused being forced to sink or swim as a way of proving their innocence. One's guilt or innocence was not based on law, judicial discretion, or witnesses, but on chance, strength of the accused trying to force himself to sink to show innocence or remain on top, floating, to show his guilt.1 Another example is a "medicine man" holding two hairs from an accused in his tent and the accused's guilt or innocence was based on if those hairs remained in place the next day.2

The judiciary is arguably a system built around those people with legal expertise, ethical behavior, and fairness. As the judiciary's evolution continued, the need for codes of conduct and constitutional clarity increased. There are times when the judiciary, or more specifically, certain judges argue judicial independence as a justification for unpopular or sometimes inappropriate conduct. According to Cynthia Gray, "A federal judge argued that the principles of judicial independence incorporated in the United States Constitution barred any sanction for "anything to do with anything that happened when the judge . . . was acting and deciding cases or in any phase of the decisional function," including "anything that the judge does verbally or physically in the course of adjudication."2

We will review the judiciaries of Canada, California, Texas, the United Kingdom, and Asia. Also, we will discuss specific Harris County cases and engage the audience through polling.


Patricia Smith, MSL, ACP

Harris County District Attorney's Office
Houston, MO

Betsy Adelizzi, PhD

Missouri Southern State University
Joplin, MO

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