A judge from California started trouble after insulting an HIV-positive murder suspect while being recorded.
“Lord knows where his tongue has been.” That’s the line by former Riverside County Superior Court Judge David B. Downing that started trouble according to the Desert Sun.
Downing is being accused of refusing to read motions filed by Kaushal Niroula because the defendant’s files were licked closed and he’s HIV-positive.
The comment was allegedly made back in 2012 in the middle of a the jury selection process. The courtroom’s mics were off at the moment, but one of the defendants was recording audio on his laptop.
Niroula and co-defendant named Daniel Garcia (who was the one recording) were on trial for the 2008 murder of Clifford Lambert, a retired art dealer.
Eventually, the laptop was discovered to be recording audio, and (seeing as that’s an obvious security breech) it was confiscated and sealed away.
Even though the audio hasn’t been released and thus can’t be confirmed, the trail's transcript from the court case shows that Judge Downing was later confronted about the audio while in session. Downing, who allegedly decided to double down, said that he’s free to say whatever he wanted.
As the transcripts state, Niroula spoke to the judge and said, “It is a commentary regarding my health status and not reading my given motions because you are concerned about where my tongue has been are inappropriate, your honor.”
Downing then replied, “I don’t care what you think. I can say what I want. The First Amendment protects me. I can say what I want.”
Later in the court session, Garcia commented that it was “difficult to proceed in a trial” where the judge had “made fun” of Niruloa’s HIV status.
To which, Downing replied, “What do you care what I said about Mr. Niroula? Worry about yourself right now.”
The two were eventually found guilty of the murder. That said, they are now using Downing’s words to appeal their convictions.
The DA’s Office haven’t decided whether to allow an appeal, but they said they will review the audio “to ascertain what occurred and when.”
When the Desert Sun asked Downing for comment he said, “Who knows? I don’t know what was said five years ago.”
He later added, “Off the top of my head, I didn’t say that stuff.”
Downing retired in 2013 but then partially returned to judging in 2015 for part-time work.