Ohio Court discards Black man’s conviction over judge’s 'troubling' remarks: report

Ohio Court discards Black man’s conviction over judge’s 'troubling' remarks: report

A Cincinnati court of appeals has discarded the 10 1/2 year-prison sentence for Leron Liggins, a Black man, over "troubling" comments made by the presiding judge over his case, Reuters reports.

Per Reuters, U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy of Detroit, Michigan, a white man, exhibited "frustration with delays in Liggins' case, which had been pending since 2018" over drug charges.

According to the report, after Liggins "expressed dissatisfaction with two different court-appointed lawyers and changed his mind about pleading guilty," during a 2020 hearing for his case, Murphy "said he was 'tired of this defendant,' who was giving him the 'runaround,'" and asked Liggin's then-attorney "What do you want me to do? This guy looks like a criminal to me. This is what criminals do. This isn't what innocent people, who want a fair trial do."

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Representing a three-judge panel, Reuters reports, U.S. Circuit Judge Eric Clay said Murphy's "troubling" comments "called into question his partiality."

Murphy "apologized for getting upset at Liggins, saying he made a 'mistake' and had 'lost my head,' but he declined to let the case be re-assigned, saying 'just because I got mad does not mean I'm biased.'"

Still, Clay wrote, "We are highly concerned by this remark, especially when directed toward Liggins, an African American man. Even if one were to assume a lack of racial bias on the part of the district judge, the remark nevertheless raises the specter of such bias."

Liggin's attorney Wade Fink, said the decision represents the fact that "No matter who you are, no matter what you look like, victims and defendants alike you should be treated with dignity, respect, and, above all, complete even-handed fairness."

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Reuters' full report is available at this link (subscription required).

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