WACO, Texas — An online petition calling for McLennan County Judge Ralph Strother to resign has nearly 50,000 signatures a week after he accepted a plea deal offered to former Baylor fraternity president Jacob Anderson who was accused of rape.
Under the plea deal, Anderson will serve three years probation, pay a $400 fine, and attend counseling.
But did Strother do anything to warrant a resignation? KCEN Channel 6 legal expert, Liz Mitchell, weighs in.
Did Judge Strother have the power to break the plea deal?
Mitchell: "It is. It is within the judge's power."
Would Judge Strother have a reason to break the deal?
Mitchell: "The judge is neutral. He doesn't have a dog in the fight, so to speak. And it's important to note, the judge does not know all the facts of the case until he hears the case. During the plea, things might have been brought to his attention about issues with the case as to why it was reduced to a lesser included offense, however, the judge is not doing any investigating."
When would a judge typically reject a plea deal?
Mitchell: "You see that often when a defendant is wavering or not as to whether they are truly guilty. If in the process of taking the plea bargain the defendant starts making statements about how they are not really guilty, how they are innocent, then the judge cannot in good faith accept the plea. If both sides have come to an agreement that they think is fair and just, more times than not the judge is going to feel inclined to plead the case and move it off of the docket."
Why should the judge not "second guess" the prosecutor?
Mitchell: "(With) all of this pressure for the judge to reject the plea deal, like I said, the judge doesn't know all the evidence surrounding this case that the district attorney's office does. The judge hasn't conducted any outside investigation and thoroughly vetted witnesses, looked through victim statements, read prior inconsistent statements like the district attorney's office has.
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