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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Accused of Texting Prosecutors in Trial Resigns

AUSTIN (CN) - A Texas judge will resign amid claims that she texted prosecutors from the bench while they were trying a man before her on child-injury charges, officials said.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct had begun investigating Judge Elizabeth Coker of the 258th District Court in Polk County amid complaints and media reports last year.

These reports alleged that Coker had been presiding over the 2012 felony trial of a man named Daniel Reeves when she began sending text messages to Assistant Polk County District Attorney Kaycee Jones, a prosecutor on the child-injury case.

The commission acknowledged Monday that its investigation concerned claims that Coker had communicated privately with Jones "to suggest questions for the prosecutor to ask during the trial; to ensure that a witness was able to refresh his memory and rehabilitate his testimony by reviewing his videotaped interview with law enforcement before he took the stand for the second time the following day; and to discuss legal issues pertinent to the case, in an unsuccessful effort to assist the state obtain a guilty verdict in the case."

There were also allegations that Coker had other improper ex-parte communications with Jones, other members of the district attorney's office and certain defense attorneys, the commission revealed.

It announced Monday that Coker will formally resign on Dec. 6 and is taking a voluntary leave of absence in the meantime.

"Judge Coker allegedly exhibited a bias in favor of certain attorneys and a prejudice against others in both her judicial rulings and her court appointments," the agreement states. "Judge Coker allegedly met with jurors in an inappropriate matter, outside the presence of counsel, while the jurors were deliberating in one of more criminal trials."

The commission says it was concerned that Coker allegedly discussed its investigation with a material witness prior to that witness' testimony in an alleged attempt to influence that person's' testimony.

"The judge may not have been candid and truthful in her testimony before the commission when questioned about her contact with the witness," the commission said.

Coker is disqualified from serving as a judge in the state in the future as part of the agreement.

It is unclear if a similar investigation is being pursued against Jones, the ABA Journal reported.

Jones had been elected to the bench of the 411th District Court in Polk County in 2012, and Coker reportedly swore the prosecutor into office this past January.

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