Oregon Judge Facing Backlash Over Her Decision In Criminal Case

Hello everyone! Today, we have a story that’s bound to raise some eyebrows and spark a lot of conversations.

Imagine being a second grader and suddenly finding yourself in the middle of a real courtroom drama. That’s exactly what happened in Clackamas County, Oregon, and it has people talking.

So, here’s the scoop. Judge Ulanda Watkins, who presides over the Clackamas County Circuit Court, found herself in hot water after allowing a group of young children to play a pivotal role in a real-life trial. These kids, aged between seven and eight, were on a field trip from St. John the Apostle School, and they were brought into the courtroom as ‘special jurors.’ Sounds crazy, right?

Picture this: these second graders were seated in the jury box, just a few feet away from the defendant, Samuel Varvara, who was on trial for a hit-and-run incident involving property damage.

They were even given notepads, just like real jurors, and were told they could interrupt witnesses if they couldn’t hear them. At one point, Judge Watkins even questioned if the children knew how to write. Talk about an unconventional approach!

Christa Doerbeck, a law student on the prosecution team, was tasked with giving her opening statement to these schoolchildren and sharing the state’s exhibits with them. Meanwhile, Varvara, who represented himself, faced the young ‘jury’ with the seriousness of any other trial.

However, the unusual proceedings quickly caught the attention of prosecutors. Doerbeck alerted the District Attorney’s office, and the children were removed from the courtroom. Despite this intervention, Varvara was acquitted of the charges.

Now, weeks after this unusual event, Clackamas County District Attorney John Wentworth has expressed serious concerns. In a letter to the presiding judge, he questioned the fairness of the trial and whether the rights of all parties involved were respected. Wentworth highlighted that there was no consent from either party for this process and that the victim, a schoolteacher, found the proceedings unprofessional and confusing.

Wentworth’s concerns have reached the highest levels of Oregon’s judicial system, prompting a response from Chief Justice Meagan Flynn. She assured him that Judge Watkins takes her responsibilities seriously and values her reputation for fairness. Judge Watkins, appointed in 2017, is noted for being the only judge of color in Clackamas County and the first African American judge outside of Multnomah County in Oregon.

This isn’t the first time Judge Watkins has been in the spotlight. Recently, she faced criticism after denying a restraining order request in a case that tragically ended with the deaths of a woman, her fiancé, and her son at the hands of the woman’s abusive ex-husband.