An Ohio courtroom became a stage for legal theater Tuesday when the judge presiding over the arraignment of a confessed drunken driver expressed frustration at the glut of news reporters huddled behind the defendant and abruptly postponed the proceeding.
Just minutes after Matthew Cordle, 22, shuffled into the courtroom in handcuffs, Franklin County Judge Julie Lynch dismissed the court proceeding as "nothing unusual" and appeared irritated by the throng of media who had descended on her Columbus courthouse.
The judge then unexpectedly postponed the arraignment to Wednesday, saying normal court procedures weren't being followed.
"I'm sorry you all came to this whole, big thing," Lynch told reporters, perhaps sarcastically.
"If we do not remain an independent judiciary with three branches of government, then we are doomed," Lynch said forcefully before exiting the courtroom — leaving those in attendance visibly confused.
Lynch said the type of hearing Cordle's lawyers requested typically happens on Wednesdays — and she wasn’t going to make an exception, according to the Associated Press.
Cordle’s lawyers denied allegations that they had attempted to get the case before Lynch, a process known as "judge shopping," which is prohibited by court regulations, according to the AP.
They said they intend to go forward with their client’s wishes to plead guilty as soon as possible. His new arraignment is scheduled for 1:30 pm Wednesday.
Cordle captured national attention after uploading a video to YouTube in which he confesses to allegedly striking with his car and killing a 61-year-old veteran after a night of heavy drinking. In the much-circulated video, he begs viewers to never drink and drive.
Lynch said Tuesday that the "court has not seen the YouTube video."
Cordle was officially indicted Monday on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol of drugs.
Cordle turned himself in at the Franklin County jail at about 1:15 p.m. Monday, his defense attorney George Breitmayer III told NBC News.
Breitmayer said Cordle would plead not guilty at arraignment, but once a judge is assigned to the case, the defense will change the plea to guilty. If convicted, Cordle faces a maximum sentence of 8 1/2 years in prison, the prosecutor said.
Cordle’s 3 1/2 minute video confession, which went viral after it was released Sept. 3, begins with a pixelated image of his face as he states with a disguised voice, “I killed a man.”
The victim's daughter, Angela Canzani, told NBC News that she believes Cordle is attempting to mitigate punishment with the video.
Cordle is currently being held at the Franklin County Corrections 1 facility in Columbus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published September 10 2013, 12:28 PM