A Texas judge has been formally reprimanded after suggesting on social media that an accused cop-killer be hanged.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded Burnet County Judge James Oakley last week over a Nov. 21 Facebook post where he commented it might be “time for a tree and a rope” in reference to a Black man accused of fatally shooting a San Antonio police detective, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
The commission concluded that Oakley “cast reasonable doubt on his capacity to act impartially,” and willfully behaved in a manner that undermined the judiciary. He was ordered to complete a 30-hour training program for new judges, as well as four hours of racial sensitivity training with a mentoring judge.
Oakley initially told the commission his comment was a simple reference to a 1980s salsa commercial, but they didn’t buy it, the newspaper reported. The remark, written under a post he shared from the San Antonio Police Department regarding the arrest of accused cop killer Otis Tyrone McKane, sparked immediate backlash among users who saw the quip, rather, as a reference to lynching.
Oakley, who is white, has since issued a public apology but denied what he said had anything to do with race. He also deleted the post shortly afterward.
“My comment was intended to reflect my personal feelings that this senseless murder of a police officer should qualify for the death penalty,” he told the commission. “In my mind, the race/gender of the admitted cop killer was not relevant.”
In its reprimand, the commission noted that it had received 18 written complaints about the judge, including grievances over the post’s racial undertones, his call for vigilante justice and his outward disregard for the judicial process. Moreover, the commission revealed that Oakley had never attended or completed any Texas Association of Counties judicial training.
“Multiple complainants also questioned Judge Oakley’s suitability for judicial office and expressed doubts that he could perform his duties impartially,” the reprimand read.
Oakley didn’t respond to requests for comment.