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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Common Pleas Court Judge Has A Passion For Truth

"A man's life was at stake, but so too was the integrity of the criminal justice system."

 Judge in Terrance Williams case a "terrier" for the truth

Published: Friday, September 28, 2012, 8:06 PM     Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012, 8:33 PM

Terrance "Terry" Williams may very well owe his life to a judge.

When attorneys speak Judge Teresa Sarmina's name, they tend to do so in the respectful tone of the previously wounded.
judge-teresa-sarmina.jpgView full sizeJudge M. Teresa Sarmina

The diminutive but ferociously intelligent Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge has a courtroom demeanor reminiscent of Martin Shaw's Judge John Deed on the BBC, alternately humorous and severe, prone to sparring with attorneys over the nuance of case law and - with a keen ear for the unsaid - taking over the examination of witnesses herself.

Sarmina is known as a terrier: once she gets her teeth into something, she doesn't let it go.

What she usually shakes out is the truth - or something closer to it than would have been presented to her otherwise.

But the habit exasperates attorneys on both sides of the bench. 

This week Sarmina granted a stay of execution for Williams after a last-minute appeal that stretched into three days. Her ruling - which excoriated the prosecution in the case as both unconstitutional and unethical - dropped like a boulder into the pond of current and former state prosecutors, prompting the likes of Ed Rendell to spring to the former prosecutor's defense. Read more...

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