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This is the most obscene, vulgar court transcript you’ll ever see

The judge actually told the defendant, “You have a constitutional right to be a dumbass.”

It’s not every day that a sitting judge tells a defendant in his court that “you look like a queer,” “you have a constitutional right to be a dumbass,” and “you’ll find out how nasty I really am.” But that really happened earlier this year in a Georgia courtroom.

Floyd County Superior Court Judge Bryant Durham hurled the insults at defendant Denver Allen in June. Allen, who had been accused of murder, was very combative — making sexual references while demanding that he get a new public defender. Durham at first seemed to ignore the remarks, and tried to tell Allen he could not get a new attorney. But pretty soon, Durham began hurling insults back at Allen. (Since then, the state’s judicial monitoring agency reprimanded Durham, pushing him into counseling.)

The exchange was fully reenacted — in the style of Adult Swim show Rick and Morty — by the Adult Swim staff and YouTube user Tiarawhy. It’s really worth watching in full:

If video is not your thing, you can also read the full transcript, courtesy of law blogger Keith Lee.

Here is just one part of this very colorful transcript:

ALLEN: I jack on white boys—

DURHAM: Why don’t you do it right now?

ALLEN: —just like I jack on females.

DURHAM: Do it now.

ALLEN: I ain't got, I ain’t got but—

DURHAM: I don’t care.

ALLEN: Take off the cuffs.

DURHAM: How many hands do you have to have to do it?

ALLEN: Take off the cuffs.

DURHAM: Come on. No. Jack off.

ALLEN: This is kangaroo court.

DURHAM: Come on. Jack off.

Again, this really happened in a courtroom.

Obviously, this is a very extreme case. Court proceedings do not often go off the rails in this way.

But the whole fiasco provides a useful reminder about the legal system: It is run by humans — and they are all very susceptible to emotions just like everyone else.

In extreme cases, we get situations like this exchange in Georgia and a judge literally beating up a public defender in Florida.

But in more typical cases, these emotions can lead to harsh, overly punitive sentences. For example, a study published earlier this year found that Louisiana judges give much harsher sentences — particularly to black boys and girls — after the Louisiana State University football team loses. And a study from 2011 found that judges are more likely to be lenient on defendants earlier in the day or after they take a break, such as lunch.

Here’s how that second study’s findings look in chart form, measuring the proportion of decisions that approve a defendant’s parole request:

Judges are more likely to issue favorable decisions to defendants after a break. PNAS via Randal Olson

Obviously, it’s good for defendants and their attorneys to know this. It means they are better off getting cases early in the day.

But it’s also important for the judges to know this. Otherwise, they might let their emotions get the best of them — and while those emotions can culminate in heated exchanges in a courtroom, they can also show up in unfair, punitive rulings.


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