Efforts to have Murray County judge removed from bench could be long shot

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OKLAHOMA – The Care2.com petition keeps gaining momentum.

They’re very close to their goal of 60,000 signatures.

People from all over the world have signed the petition demanding Judge Wallace Coppedge be removed from the bench.

Coppedge was the presiding judge in the case against Benjamin Petty.

Petty plead guilty to raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl at Falls Creek church camp.

His sentence was 15 years probation.

He’ll have to wear a GPS ankle monitor for two years and register as an aggravated sex offender.

But, he won’t serve any time behind bars unless he violates that probation.

The sentence has sparked outrage.

Care2 spokesperson, Julie Mastrine, said their team saw this case pop up in the news and they decided to start the petition.

“This was one of those kind of outrageous stories where we thought people are clearly angry about this, so we should get a petition out,” Mastrine said. “It really just shows you that people all over the world want to see justice. Even if it’s not an issue that’s directly tied to their community, they still have big hearts.”

Sand Springs, Oklahoma pastor Jason Jones, also started his own petition on Care2.com.

“To see how, you know, something like this, could just be kind of swept under the rug or, you know, the attempt to just kind of sweep this under the rug and not really see justice done on behalf of this girl and her family, it just bothered me,” Jones said.

But, legal expert, Joi Miskel, said it takes much more than that to get a judge ousted from his bench.

“It’s all well and good to file a petition online to get kind of, get some movement going,” Miskel said. “It’s not that easy just to snap your fingers and remove a judge. There’s a lot more to it.”

A complaint has to be filed with the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints.

From there, an investigator looks into the claims and recommendations can be made to several different entities, including the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Miskel said disagreeing with a judge’s decision is not grounds for removal.

“Judges have discretion. I mean that’s part of their job,” Miskel said.

While Miskel does not personally agree with the sentence, she said it’s rare for a judge to go against a plea deal when all parties are in agreement.

“In a sense, he was just doing his job. He was going along with what the state and defense agreed upon. However, I think people are upset about the sentence itself. And, he didn’t determine that sentence. That was the state of Oklahoma,” Miskel said.

The Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints has been in existence since 1966. On average, they receive 150 to 200 complaints a year.

35 petitions have gone before the court on judiciary.

Only seven judges have ever been removed from the bench.

Two judges resigned during their trials.

The rest either resulted in suspensions, censures or dismissal.

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