A North Georgia judge that called a man “queer” and mocked him for being a “butt boy” during a vulgar and homophobic courtroom exchange was publicly spanked by judicial watchdogs for his conduct.
On Friday, the state Judicial Qualifications Commission told Floyd County Superior Court Judge Bryant Durham Jr. (photo) that he violated two judicial cannons of ethics during the June 17 hearing in his Rome, Ga., courtroom. The bizarre outburst came during an 11-minute confrontation with murder suspect Denver Fenton Allen.
Durham's slap on the wrist from the commission includes publishing the rebuke in the Rome News-Tribune. The judge also faces sensitivity training and counseling. Via the AJC:
In its letter, the judicial watchdog agency said Durham failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety and failed to discharge his duties “impartially, competently and diligently.”
For his part, the judge fessed up to his misdeeds ahead of the commission's investigation. Via the AJC:
Durham notified the agency of what he’d done before any investigation was initiated, quickly recused himself from Allen’s case and took full responsibility for his “improper and intemperate comments,” the commission’s director, Mark Dehler, wrote. The commission said it was impressed with Durham’s candor and contrition as well as his agreement to undergo sensitivity training and counseling.
“The commission also is convinced that you learned from this experience and will not allow yourself to be drawn into this kind of exchange again,” Dehler said.
In June Allen – charged with killing his cellmate in the Floyd County Jail – appeared before Durham to request that a new public defender be assigned to his case. Allen told the judge that his current lawyer demanded that Allen allow him to perform oral sex on him “to do a good job” representing him during his upcoming murder case.
Durham said he didn't believe Allen's allegation, at which point the hearing quickly went sideways. Allen told the judge, “fuck you” and Durham responded with a contempt of court charge. Allen aimed his fascination with oral sex at the judge, bragging about his “donkey dick” and wondering aloud if Durham could handle it. Allen also told the court he preferred sex with “white boys with big butts.” That's when Durham called Allen “queer.” (Read the transcript.)
Durham also seemed a bit fascinated with Allen's “donkey dick” and oral sex, telling Allen, “I'll bet everybody enjoys sucking your cock.”
In the heat of the exchange – after already calling Allen a “queer” and referring to “butt boys” – Durham implied that the county jail will provide all of the same-sex relations that Allen desired. The hearing devolved further with more name-calling as Allen called the judge an “old bitch-ass cracker.”
The judge also told Allen that he's “fixated on butts and dicks” and that he should pull out his penis and masturbate in court. Allen threatened to kill the judge's family and hinted that he killed his cellmate after the victim made a sexual advance.
But the outburst with Allen in June isn't the first time that Durham has mocked people in his courtroom. In a May interview, after winning his fourth term on the bench, the judge compared people in family violence cases to liars and guests who appear on one of the most notorious talk shows on television. Via the Rome New-Tribune:
Family violence restraining order petitions are generally his least favorites, because he’s seeing either a seriously bad situation or people stretching the truth just to get back at someone.
“I’ve been known to call Thursday mornings the Jerry Springer Show,” Durham said about the slot earmarked for family violence hearings.