PHOTO: Judge Teresa Hawthorne and Sergio Garcia at 7-31-13 DACED meeting. pic.twitter.com/4cmL2G7elo— Sergio Garcia (@sergioDACED) August 12, 2013
A Dallas County judge has been reprimanded for abusing her power to influence her nephew’s case and for shaming jurors in a separate rape case.
In September 2014, Dallas Judge Teresa Hawthorne contacted a judge in Lubbock and requested a warrant for her nephew be withdrawn, said the commission. They did not detail his criminal case but Hawthorne later testified as a character witness in his behalf without being subpoenaed.
In a separate case, Hawthorne scolded jurors over their sentencing of a man convicted of aggravated assault.
At least three jurors told the commission that Hawthorne told them after the October 2016 verdict that she would have voted the defendant was not guilty because she “did not believe the victim was raped at all."
The jurors went on record to complain about the judge’s view on the rape conviction that landed the man 99 years in jail.
“Quite frankly, I am disturbed. 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?” one juror testified the judge scolded them.
He also added Hawthorne said, “I definitely would have wanted to hear from the defendant’s mother.”
Another juror said Hawthorne stated how they could have a good conscience about their decision and “could not believe” that they found the defendant guilty.
In both the cases, Hawthorne received a public reprimand.
In intervening in her nephew’s case, the commission ruled the Dallas County judge had violated judicial rules that state, “A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge."
In the rape case, the commission said the judge “failed to treat jurors with patience, dignity and courtesy when she shamed and reprimanded them for their verdict.”
When confronted with the accusations, Hawthorne denied speaking with the Lubbock judge orally but did admit she testified at his revocation hearing. She also said she told jurors in the sexual assault case she would have found the defendant not guilty but denied “she shamed or reprimanded the jury for their verdict,” claiming she never meant to “upset anyone.”
For a judge to receive a public reprimand for two incidents is extremely rare. Judges and attorneys generally refrain from condemning a jury’s verdict because they can be chastised for doing so.
Hawthorne is seeking re-election for a third term as 203rd Judicial District in 2018. Raquel “Rocky” Jones, the felony chief assistant district attorney at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, will be challenging Hawthorne in the 2018 Democratic Party primary.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS, Chip East