BELL COUNTY, Texas — After three days of continual testimony, which saw 13 witnesses take the stand for the State of Texas, Judge Claudia Brown was removed from office Wednesday following a unanimous verdict by 12 jurors of her peers.
"It's not what I expected, however, it's the decision the jury made," David Fernandez, Brown's attorney, said.
A petition filed by Brett Pritchard, an attorney in Killeen, called into question whether Brown was fit to be a Justice of the Peace, an elected position, in part because of an unconstitutional $4 billion bond set in February 2017.
"Once that was forwarded to my office, there were other incidences that we began to investigate and looked, which finally culminated into 17 different allegations of either misconduct or incompetency," Jim Nichols, the prosecuting Bell County Attorney assigned to the case, said.
The defense seemed to be fighting an uphill battle the entire trial and Fernandez said the case was not easy to defend.
"We had a very difficult case," Fernandez said. "We had 17 questions, I believe, and an answer of 'true' to one of them would have led to the same results."
The jury found Judge Brown was reckless and showed incompetence on 16 of the 17 allegations leveled against her. The only allegation the jury abstained from was regarding whether Brown acted recklessly when she set a bond of $15,000 for a 17-year old kid charged with less than two ounces of marijuana.
"I took no pleasure in having all of this done in public," Nichols said afterward. "She's a wonderful person, I admire her accomplishments. It just so happens this wasn't the right fit."
The Honorable Steven Aples told Brown following the verdict and his official ruling that none of this changes the opinion of who she is to Bell County.
"Everybody thinks the world of you," he said in court. "You're a credit to this community. Everybody really thinks a lot of you but the statement of the jury says we need to abide by their verdict."
Brown is the first public official to be removed from office in Bell County in 33 years.
When asked if Brown plans to appeal the verdict, Fernandez said he isn't quite sure.
"She hasn't made that decision yet," he said. "Her immediate goal is to go to her office and remove her personal effects. She respects the Judiciary and the jury. So, that's what she's going to do for now."