A controversial judge is under fire as an Oregon community is in an uproar over his treatment of a domestic violence victim.
The behavior of Multnomah County Judge Kenneth Walker during a domestic abuse sentencing hearing in January has led to multiple complaints being filed with the Oregon Judicial Fitness Commission.
According to The Oregonian:
On Jan. 29, Dana Parks appeared in Walker’s courtroom to deliver a victim’s impact statement she had prepared for the sentencing of her ex-boyfriend, who had pleaded guilty to felony assault IV, attempted assault and coercion. It was the second time he had been sentenced for assaulting her.
But while Parks attempted to read her statement, Walker interrupted three times and ultimately walked out of the courtroom without allowing her to finish, according to a recording of the hearing.
Complaints about Walker’s actions were filed with the Oregon Judicial Fitness Commission over the last few days by Anne Pratt, vice president of Crime Victims United; Mary Elledge, Portland chapter leader of Parents of Murdered Children; and Danielle Tudor, a rape survivor and victims advocate.
“I don’t know if he was preoccupied or had another appointment, but he silenced me in front of my abuser,” Parks, 27, said after the hearing, according to The Oregonian. “I felt so embarrassed.”
The victim also asked herself: “Am I being hysterical?”
At sentencing, Oregon law allows victims the right to “reasonably express any views concerning the crime, the person responsible, the impact of the crime on the victims, and the need for restitution and compensatory fine.” This right has no limits on the amount of time or words.
“I have been a victim advocate for over 18 years, held many hands in the courtroom as the victim readies themselves to face the court and the accused. I have never experienced this kind of disrespect for a crime victim,” Pratt wrote in the complaint. “It is outrageous behavior, unbecoming of a judge and an action that ultimately re-victimizes an already very wounded victim. If this judge were to act similarly towards a defendant while they were giving an allocution under identical circumstances, the sentence would likely be reversed.”
Walker was appointed to the Multnomah county circuit court in 2007 by the Democratic governor at the time, Ted Kulongowski. The judge has been caught up in controversy before, ranting last year about confiscating all guns and throwing them into the ocean during a sentencing of a killer for a shooting.
Walker told the Oregonian he had not received notice of the complaints but that he had not intended to upset Parks during her statement.
“After listening to the tape, I could have been, I think, a little more courteous to Miss Parks, but I was thinking in my own mind that I was redirecting her to say things that would have an impact on the court,” he said. “I wanted her to talk about how she felt and what impact it had on her and what impact it was going to have on her future and how the crime she affected her. And each time that she went off, talking about what her friends were writing on Instagram or what charges that were not before us or saying something about the defendant’s mother, I thought (those) were inappropriate comments and I thought I was trying to redirect her.”
The judge addressed the moment he cut off the victim as she began to describe an alleged sexual assault by her boyfriend – for which he never faced charges. “I don’t want to hear that,” Walker told Parks.
“I probably should have said ‘Ma’am, that’s not appropriate, would you please direct your comments more directly to the issues of how you felt.’ The words that I used, I think, certainly, could have been changed,” Walker said, according to the newspaper.
A request for a new sentencing hearing has been filed on Parks’ behalf by the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center which also filed a claim of violation of crime victims’ rights since Parks has a Constitutional right “to be heard at the pretrial release hearing and the sentencing.”
Walker indicated that he would allow Parks to make an another victim’s impact statement at a separate scheduled hearing.