BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP)_The judge in the trial of Richard Scrushy defended her performance in an interview published Thursday, saying she never wanted the case but had a duty to make sure the fired HealthSouth Corp. CEO, who won a full acquittal, was treated fairly.
Speaking in an interview with The Birmingham News, U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre said it wasn't her job to make sure prosecutors had an easy time during the trial, which began in January and ended Tuesday with jurors finding Scrushy not guilty on 36 counts.
"My obligation is to ensure the defendant, any defendant, receives the constitutional protections he or she is entitled to," she said. "It makes no difference to me who that defendant is or what the charges are. I am committed to that."
Repeating comments she made in a closed-door session with attorneys, Bowdre said she didn't want to preside in the case, which was assigned to her on a random basis.
"I told a number of people that I didn't want this case from the beginning," said Bowdre, a former law professor who was appointed to the bench by President Bush in 2003, the year Scrushy was indicted. "I knew it would be high profile and that every decision would be scrutinized."
Bowdre admitted she was stung by repeated criticism outside the courtroom for rulings, including some that favored the defense.
"I can't say it hasn't hurt me," Bowdre said. "But I know I conducted the trial right, and judges can't worry about public criticism when things were done correctly under the law."
In November 2003, Bowdre offered to consider motions to remove herself from the case because she knew Scrushy's daughter from riding horses, and had boarded her horses at a stable at Scrushy's estate in suburban Birmingham in previous years.
Neither the defense nor prosecutors asked her to step aside, but Bowdre said she considered removing herself anyway. In the end, she knew that her "minor acquaintanceship" with Melissa Scrushy was not enough to meet the legal standards required for removal.
"I decided to grin and bear it, suck it up and do my job," she said.