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AUSTIN — A state judicial board has publicly reprimanded Burnet County Judge James Oakley for the “tree and a rope” Facebook comment he posted in November 2016 in connection with the murder of a San Antonio police officer.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued the reprimand May 8. Oakley also is required to complete a 30-hour education program and “participate in four hours of instruction in the area of racial sensitivity with a mentor to be chosen by the commission.”

The commission initiated the inquiry into Oakley’s social media comment after receiving 18 written complaints following the Facebook post.

On Nov. 21, 2016, after authorities arrested Otis Tyrone McKane, an African-American man, and charged him with the murder of San Antonio Police Department Det. Benjamin Marconi, Oakley posted that it was “time for a tree and a rope” under the suspect’s photo.

“There was never anything racial about my comment,” Oakley said.

The post was made on his personal Facebook page, and he took it down after someone pointed out that it could be seen as offensive. Oakley apologized at the time of the post and subsequently several more times, including at a board meeting of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative of which he is a member.

Oakley said he was reacting to the senseless murder of the San Antonio police officer and noted that, of all the people who have come out against him because of the Facebook comment, nobody has inquired about the status of the murder investigation. According to Bexar County records, McKane is being held in jail and awaiting trial.

According to the commission’s report, the concerns complainants had included, but were not limited to: the call for vigilante justice; the apparent disregard to due process of the law; the influence the comment could have on the potential jury pool; and the racial insensitivity of the Facebook post. Other complainants also “questioned Judge Oakley’s suitability for judicial office and expressed doubts that he could perform his judicial duties impartially.”

While county judges can conduct criminal and civil court proceedings, Oakley has very limited duties pertaining to those cases.

“I only do uncontested probates. That’s it,” Oakley said. “I do not assess fines or punishments.”

Oakley’s role as Burnet County judge is mainly administrative along with the four other members of the county commissioners court.

In December 2016, the PEC board of directors heard complaints against Oakley as well as support for him during its review of his Facebook post. As a result, the PEC board voted to strip him of his vice president position on the board (he is still a board member) and issue him a warning. The PEC membership encompasses a wide swath of Central Texas, but his county judge responsibilities are only for Burnet County.

Oakley appeared before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to address the complaints against him. He believes those complaints are politically motivated.

“I took the Facebook post down as soon as I realized some people were offended by it. There was no malice in it. I was simply reacting to another senseless murder of a police officer,” Oakley said.

He added that at no time was he advocating vigilante justice or skipping due process of the law for the suspect.

“But people seem to be more focused on attacking me than on my sincere apology,” he said.

As for the commission’s ruling, Oakley said he has the required continuing education hours and carries a surplus forward but accepts the opportunity to meet with a mentor regarding racial sensitivity. In its report, the panel noted “Judge Oakley made certain statements that indicated to the commission that he could benefit from racial sensitivity training with a mentoring judge.”

“I’m always welcome to a discussion on contemporary viewpoints on social issues,” Oakley said.

25 thoughts on “State judicial board reprimands James Oakley for ‘tree and a rope comment’

  1. A. If the officer was killed by a white person Oakley wouldn’t have said “time for a rope and a tree”.
    B. This “sincere apology” … I have yet to see that statement in the press..
    C. Did he write a letter to apologize personally to the “suspect” because that is what he needs to do is man up and accept consequences for his racist behavior…rather than make lame excuses.
    D. Texas Rangers need to come in and take over Burnet. Fire them all and start over.

  2. I bet he would’ve said hang nothing if it was a white person….try again… anything about hanging has a very strong undertone. So no. And as for no inquiring about the murder, that goes without saying we know a police officer was murdered and we see a picture of a SUSPECT….he made it about more…

  3. This Judge needs to be disbarred. There is NO place for racist comments like these ever. Apology not accepted. We have what’s called the legal Justice system and a court of law. Never should we ever accept that kind of behavior.

  4. Mr. Oakley’s comment was flat out a call for lynching, in disregard for the rule of law. To claim otherwise is sheer disregard of reality. He clearly called for the suspect to be hanged immediately, in contravention of due process and the rule of law. If the accused murderer is found guilty, then let the legal process punish him. Mr. Oakley’s post was deserving of censure at the very least, and if he were a criminal court judge almost certainly would have resulted in his (deserved) removal from the bench. He should avoid any offensive posts in the future, and should probably retire from public service, to allow some one who has some ability to do good, rather than harm, the opportunity to serve

    1. Agreed, I feel this judge should be removed, and should have no further contact with cases concerning individuals with color. I fear no amount of diversity courses will cure his aliment of hate!

  5. Oh and by the way the question is not if you’re racist. The question is can we trust beyond reasonable doubt that you can carry out your position without racial bias. And you can answer that yourself…

  6. Let’s face it. The comment was textbook racism…Probably why Balch Springs police officers feel entitled to killing black youth… The poor boy was not even convicted of killing a cop… I love how everyone is saying there isn’t a racist bone in his body… The comment proved otherwise.
    Why is Oakley apologizing the public, when he should be apologizing to the boys family for advocating for no due process, and using public influence to incite a public lynching. After the commissions finding and his boards findings it would be safe to say the only person who doesn’t think he is a racist is himself.
    Moreover, if one person if color advocates for the lynching of a cop who was actually convicted of killing an innocent youth. You conservative snowflakes would be up in arms. Calling us violent thugs and other atrocities that make you feel better about being racists

  7. I live in New York and read about Judge James Oakley’s comment that a Black man should be lynched for killing a police officer. I do not know the circumstances concerning this crime, however, what I do know is that Judge Oakley should not be sitting on the bench. He is representative of the racism, callousness, ignorance and malfeasance that permeates Texas ‘justice’. This man is a disgrace to any judicial system. I should not be surprised though, because Texas has more KKK chapters than any other state in the union. Sad, sad, sad!

    Sent from my iPhone

  8. The commenters and the judge are being deliberately obtuse. Hanging as execution for a crime takes place after a trial and sentencing, from a gallows, not the nearest tree. Next time the judge wants to vent, he could try “I hope he gets the electric chair” which implies a legal punishment for a heinous crime rather than an extrajudicial killing.

    For information:

    From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings were recorded in the United States.

    Of these incidents, 3,446 of the victims were black accounting for 72.7% of the people lynched.

    During that time, 1,297 (27.3%) of the victims were white people, lynched mainly for helping black people or being anti-lynching or other “social justice” and political reasons.

    Source: NAACP

  9. “Lately the term has been used as a slang insult, often used in a derogatory way to suggest that people — often, but not always, young people — who take offense to anything from political policy changes to offensive comments are as weak and vulnerable as a speck of snow.”

  10. Well first of all , for you to take a statement that does of for ‘tree and a rope comment ‘and did not make statement of race, you have to be a racist to take it in a that context ,I know I didn’t !!!!for the ones who did should be a shame of there self . last of all I’m proud to be from Texas and a cowboy with cow boy justice, just maybe if we did hang a few pedophiles they would think before doing it fyi don’t care what race they are men or women .chew on that snowflakes!

    1. I don’t know how one gets “racist” from a practice that originated for dealing with horse thieves and cattle rustlers,long before there were black folks in the west.
      It’s an idiomatic expression in Texas and other parts for dealing with criminals.
      I am sick to death of the PC sensitivity.
      If you don’t like the way we talk in Texas get the hell out .

  11. Only three hangings in the modern death penalty era, post 1976, Gregg v Goergia

    All white males.

  12. James, you have said or done nothing wrong, period.

    What this does say is that there are a couple of people (ladies) that need to be removed from office, their mere presence is a distraction to the job that needs to be performed.

    Are we seeing the results of people moving into our area from Austin and California? One has to wonder…

  13. To the critics, I ask, have you ever said anything without thinking and regretted it afterwards?

    1. I’m sure I have! As I’m sure you have, Mr. Cozby. While the last perfect person died on the cross, there’s a slight difference you’re forgetting here, if you’ll indulge me.

      Unfortunately, our Lord Jesus wasn’t an elected official. Also, quite unfortunately, neither am I. Oakley is. His words, his statements, carry a weight yours and mine don’t. He wears a robe to signify the honor bestowed on him and the great amount of power behind his position. He represents the rule of law, the bedrock of this country. He, out of all of us, has the utmost duty to THINK BEFORE HE SPEAKS.

      I’m going to go out on a limb here, now. Mr. Cozby, could we be honest with each other for a moment? I know we don’t know each other and we probably would disagree on a few things (certainly these days!). But we both know he said what he said because he meant it. He was heated and feeling that red white and blue patriotism flow through him and figured it was a good, strong statement: Pro-police = good. Criminals = bad. Black criminals = scarier, more of them, deserve what’s coming. And hey, if it riles up a few hippies and blacks (if they even hear about it!), it’ll be no real difference because any “patriot” (code for “white conservative”) will appreciate my free tongue and shootin-from-the-hip attitude.

      I guess what I’m getting at, Mr. Cozby, is it would make my heart full to explain with kindness and sincere concern that these types of remarks are racist and have a monumental negative impact in our society. This stuff spreads like wildfire. Our kids pick it up. Our children learn to hate through us. And when a person stands in a position as Oakley does, there is no excuse to be the gas on an already very well-lit fire.

      I hope you read this and feel inclined to engage in a conversation with me. I’ll check back every once in awhile to see if you’ve responded. If not, I wish you all the best and thanks for reading.

  14. Well apparently Mr. Bostik, a prominent council of his peers, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct does not agree with your comment that “there is not a racist bone in his body”. He has been publically reprimanded and ordered to take racial sensitivity training with a mentor. Any doubt the Commission has concerns about his racism??? I don’t think so.

    1. Tom, apparently you are a snowflake. If we start public hangings again, and I have read they are ghastly, you will stop of the malarkey. Do you what they wanted to do this scum in San Antonio, hang him immediately.
      If you are from another state, pack up and LEAVE

  15. This is the type of decision that keeps racism alive in America. Judge Oakley’s comment did not refer to the man’s race in “any” way. So a “reader” would have to turn his comment into a racial comment. Perhaps those that read Judge Oakley’s comment as a racial statement need to take the sensitivity training course.

  16. I support Judge Oakley 100%. There is not a racist bone in his body.

    1. Thanks Jerry !! That means a lot from a friend of 20 years and an actual rocket scientist !!

      1. Cone on man why would you say such thing outta all the statements possible it just so happened to be a lynching joke hahaha your a clown man

    1. For those saying an individual is racist for reading that comment as racial- the reason that it could very easily be read as racial is because of the large number of lynchings that occurred in the first half of the 20th century and earlier. These have haunted America ever since. I’ve seen very graphic pictures from these events, and knowing how much racism and prejudice still exists in the world, I don’t ever want to ignore or forget the horrific crimes that were committed out of racial tensions in America. This is why it is a problem that Judge Oakley made those statements. Even if he supposedly didn’t mean for it to be racial, as a Judge he should know his history, and know that this could definitely be taken that way. I sincerely hope he understands his mistake and learns to be more careful with the statements he makes as a public official.

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