This story was originally published June 23, 2016.
A Superior Court judge in Rome last week completely lost it on the bench during a hearing in which a murder defendant shouted repeated obscenities at the judge and then threatened to kill members of the judge's family.
A transcript of the hearing shows how an attempt by defendant Denver Fenton Allen to get a different public defender devolved into heated and nasty exchanges with Judge Bryant Durham Jr. At one point, Durham told Allen that he “looked like a queer” and even challenged him to masturbate in front of him in the courtroom.
The judge, while provoked in the extreme, made comments that could land him in trouble with the state judicial ethics agency. He not only exchanged vulgarities with Allen, he also said it was his “guess” that he’d find Allen guilty and that Allen would find out “how nasty I really am.”
Durham would not comment on the incident because the case against Allen is still pending, his office said. Durham, a former private attorney, was appointed to the bench more than a dozen years ago by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The state judicial watchdog agency did ultimately take action against Durham, although the resolution received criticism from members of Georgia's legal community.
The extraordinary hearing, first reported by the Rome News-Tribune, occurred June 17 and lasted about 11 minutes. Allen is accused of beating fellow inmate Stephen Rudolph Nalley to death at the Floyd County Jail in August 2015.
During the hearing, Allen told Durham he would murder his whole family. “I’ll cut your children up into pieces,” Allen said. “I’ll knock their brains out with a (expletive) hammer and feed them to you. … The babies will be going, ‘Daddy, daddy, help me.’"
When Durham told Allen he didn’t have any children, Allen said, “Then I’ll get your nieces, your nephews, your sisters.”
Durham said he had none of those either and told Allen he’d “be in jail so long you won’t have a chance.”
At the outset of the hearing, when Durham told Allen he couldn’t have a lawyer of his choosing, Allen said he’d then represent himself. But Durham told the defendant “that would be the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life.”
Within minutes, Allen told Durham he would “hold myself in contempt."
“Listen to me,” Durham interjected.
“(Expletive) you,” Allen told the judge and then continued saying the same thing.
After Durham found Allen in contempt, Allen responded, “I don’t care.”
Durham then sentenced Allen to 20 days for contempt and said if he said anything else, he’d add another 20 days for everything else he said.
“(Expletive) you,” Allen said.
“Forty days,” Durham ordered.
“(Expletive) you again,” Allen said.
“Sixty,” said Durham.
“Go (expletive) yourself,” Allen said.
“A year,” Durham said.
“Your mama,” Allen said.
“Ten years,” Durham ordered.
“(expletive) my (expletive),” Allen replied.
“You know something, this is going to be an interesting trial,” the judge said.
The back-and-forth between the two men continued to escalate after that, particularly after Allen began talking about parts of his anatomy and how he liked to have sex with “boys.”
“Oh, of course,” Durham told the defendant. “You know, you look like a queer.”
“Well, okay,” Allen said. “So now you’re calling me a queer in the courtroom.”
“I didn’t call you one,” Durham said. “I said you looked like one.”
Allen then asked Durham if he could get a court order to have sodomy performed on him.
“You’re so cute,” Durham said. “I know all the inmates love you to death. … I’ll bet everybody enjoys (expletive)ing your (expletive).”
“You ain’t supposed to be smiling in court,” Allen said.
“I can smile anytime I dadgum want to,” the judge replied.
Later, when Allen said he would masturbate in open court, Durham asked, “Why don’t you do that right now? … Do it now. … Do it now.”
As Durham wrapped up the hearing, he called Allen “stupid” and said he had “no idea of the English language.”
Finally, Durham said, it was time to adjourn.
“I’ve enjoyed this,” he said. “I hope you have. I know everybody else in the courtroom has enjoyed it, but you can go now.”