A Louisiana judge is facing a flurry of complaints and calls to resign after home video footage appeared to capture her family using racial slurs in the aftermath of a burglary attempt.
Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet has asked for “forgiveness and understanding” after the video emerged this week. In the footage, which was first reported by The Current, an unidentified voice—apparently a member of Odinet's family—can be heard laughing about “mom” shouting the N-word at a burglary suspect. The video was shot as the judge’s family watched home-surveillance footage of a thwarted car burglary at their home.
A female voice can be heard saying, “We have a n -----, It’s a n-----, like a roach.”
It was not immediately clear who made the racist remarks heard in the video. Odinet, who has four children, did not directly respond to questions about whose voice was heard calling the burglary suspect a “roach.”
“My children and I were the victim [sic] of an armed burglary at our home. The police were called and the assailant was arrested. The incident shook me to my core and my mental state was fragile,” Odinet said in a statement Monday, The Current reports.
As for the video, Odinet said she “was given a sedative at the time” and had “zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it.”
“Anyone who knows me and my husband, knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives. I am deeply sorry and ask for your forgiveness and understanding as my family and I deal with the emotional aftermath of this armed burglary,” she said.
The Lafayette Police Department has confirmed to local media that an attempted burglary of a vehicle took place at the home at around 2 a.m. Saturday.
But Lafayette Police Sgt. Paul Mouton told KLFY that the suspect—a Black man identified as Ronald Handy—did not have a weapon in his possession at the time of his arrest, despite Odinet describing the incident as an “armed burglary.”
Handy has been charged with two counts of simple burglary and is being held on a $10,000 bond.
Odinet’s vague apology has done nothing to stop the mounting calls for her resignation. Community organizers and criminal defense lawyers have questioned how she can be trusted to make unbiased decisions regarding Black defendants in future trials.
“I’m sure that people of color will find it impossible to trust that they will be treated fairly and equally when they have to stand for judgment before Judge Odinet,” Lafayette City Marshal Reggie Thomas said in a statement Tuesday.
“We will not tolerate bigotry from the bench. Fairness and impartiality cannot coexist with racism; Lafayette needs a new Judge,” Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt said in a press release demanding “Judge Odinet’s immediate resignation.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s Southern Division also condemned the comments heard in Odinet’s video.
“Judges are supposed to be fair and impartial arbiters of justice for all. The racist comments made by Judge Odinet are indicative of a troubling bias against Black people, which is disqualifying for an objective legal official who decides the fates of peoples’ lives,” Aaron Ahlquist, the policy director of the ADL Southern Division, said in a statement.
Ahlquist said the “ADL fully supports the call to the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana to further examine Judge Odinet’s conduct and take swift and appropriate action—Louisianians deserve accountability.”
Even Lafayette Mayor President Josh Guillory joined the growing chorus of voices calling for action.
“I am disgusted and appalled by the recent reports involving a local judge. This type of language is hurtful, divisive, and unacceptable. The fairness and objectivity of our courts are the foundation of our legal system. It is my hope that the judge will do what is best to help the community heal and move forward,” he said in a statement late Tuesday.