This is going to sound like a simple mistake. This is going to sound like a legal “technicality” that has resulted in a sex offender going free. But when a judge upends a central pillar of American law, even accidentally, there’s no other outcome.
Here’s the story, from ABA Journal:
The Los Angeles judge erred during the December 2006 voir dire in the sex-crime trial of Bryant Keith Williams, according to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judge said Williams had pleaded guilty to the charges, though he intended to say Williams had pleaded not guilty.
The judge’s error came to light when jurors who had been deliberating for less than an hour sent the judge a note. “As a group,” the note read, “we the jury feel we heard the judge state the defendant pleaded guilty before the trial. Is this true?”
The judge tried to correct his mistake. He said that the defendant pleaded “not” guilty, and asked the jurors if they could still look back on the trial with that in mind. One juror was dismissed. The rest said that they could, and returned a guilty verdict.