Ray went on to tell the defendant that he “got lucky” and was “absolutely legally guilty” but that the court was “obligated to accept” the not-guilty verdict.
The nature of Ray’s comments and his choice of words, particularly comparing the trial to that of O.J. Simpson – who was acquitted in a 1995 Los Angeles County Superior Court murder case but later held liable for civil damages – seemed to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Also his use of the phrases “jury nullification” – when a jury knowingly and deliberately rejects evidence to send a message larger than the case itself – and “legally guilty” drew national attention.
But Lane said he understood Ray’s frustration with the situation.
“I was not surprised that he got a little testy,” Lane said. “Those jurors took two oaths: one to tell the truth and another to follow the law. A note came out basically saying, ‘We don’t want to follow the law or the facts. How do we get around it?’ At least, that’s how he interpreted it. He is such a purist, as far as the law is concerned, [and] his emotions played a little bit too much into that.
And I think he knows it. I don’t think he meant anything malicious by it. He was trying to point out something that was apparent to him as a judge. He probably just didn’t say it the way it should have been said. But would he do it again like that? Never in a million years.”
Regardless, the incident in October has led one publication to call Ray the worst judge in the nation. It’s a title that both Lane and Richards said is completely unfair.
“What he did was a mistake, but to be called one of the worst judges in the country is ridiculous,” Richards said. “He’s one of the best judges in the country. He knows the law inside, out.”