Judge James Oakley of Burnet County, Texas, has been ordered to attend re-education classes after being reprimanded for suggesting that a black suspect should be hung. Oakley was formally reprimanded for posting on Facebook that a black man who has been accused of the shooting death of a San Antonio police officer deserves a “tree and a rope.”
For his utterance, which is subsequently removed from Facebook, Oakley will now take racial sensitivity training. Oakley, who is the top administrator for Burnet County will have to complete a 30-hour training program for new judges as well as four hours of racial sensitivity training.
Oakley claims that his comments revealed his personal feelings that the shooting death of the officer should “qualify for the death penalty” and have nothing to do with race. He did admit that his remarks were “curt and harsh.” He added that the remarks referred to a commercial of the 1980s for the Pace Picante brand of Mexican-style salsa. The humorous advertisment ended with the threat of “get a rope” for anyone who dares to substitute Pace salsa with substitutes made in New York. Oakley wrote the “time for a tree and a rope” post on Facebook on November 21 while commenting on a post he shared from the San Antonio Police Department about the arrest of Otis Tyrone McKane, who was accused of killing detective Benjamin Marconi.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct announced that it had received 18 written complaints about Oakley’s statements. The commissioners agreed that Oakley’s remarks “cast reasonable doubt on his capacity to act impartially.” “Multiple Complainants also questioned Judge Oakley’s suitability for judicial office, and expressed doubts that he could perform his duties impartially,” the reprimand said. The commission noted that Oakley had never attended any Texas Association of Counties training for judges. “During the appearance, Judge Oakley made certain statements that indicated to the Commission that he could benefit from racial sensitivity training with a mentoring judge,” the reprimand said.
In his apology, Oakley said, “My comment was intended to reflect my personal feelings that this senseless murder of a police officer should qualify for the death penalty.” Oakley told the commission, “In my mind, the race/gender of the admitted cop killer was not relevant.” He also said that the comment did not discredit the judiciary because his words were twisted and “media stories were promoted as a political attack,” according to the reprimand.
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