Judiciary

gavel on hook

Photo illustration by Sara Wadford/Shutterstock.

Judge Truman Morrison III of Washington, D.C., retired in March only three days after the Washington Post asked him about a woman’s allegations that he had sexual contact with her when she was 16 years old.

Carole Griffin of Birmingham, Alabama, told the Washington Post that the first assault happened in 1976 when she was sleeping. Morrison was a friend of Griffin’s family, and he was 32 years old when he allegedly penetrated Griffin’s vagina with his fingers.

Griffin told the Washington Post that Morrison’s inappropriate touching continued until she was in her 20s.

Morrison denied to the Washington Post that he touched Griffin when she was asleep but acknowledged “sexual touching” and said he had apologized to Griffin’s parents decades ago after she told them about it.

“I will always deeply regret having initiated such conduct with her when she was 16½ years old,” Morrison told the newspaper. “Given her age and my relationship of trust with Carole and her family, it was totally inappropriate.”

“I certainly did not think that I ever forced myself on her, but the truth remains that it was wrongheaded of me to initiate any sexual contact given her age and our age difference,” he told the Washington Post. “Whether or not I thought my contacts were welcome is completely irrelevant. I certainly appreciate that sexual touching of any kind without clear permission is not acceptable at any age.”

Morrison, 76, was appointed in 1979 to the Washington, D.C., superior court by President Jimmy Carter.

Griffin went public with her allegations after the Washington Post reported that Morrison had sentenced a serial groper to only 10 days in jail.

The Washington Post found five cases in which Morrison gave sentences that did not include jail time to defendants who were convicted of felony sex crimes against minors and an intellectually disabled adult. The newspaper also found at least five cases in which Morrison gave sentences of more than five years for sex crimes, including an 18-year sentence given to a serial rapist.

Morrison’s friends and colleagues described him as a great mentor with an unblemished professional reputation. He became known as a national leader in the fight against the cash bail bond industry and an advocate for criminal justice reform.

The Washington Post chronicles its reporting process in a new podcast called Canary: The Washington Post Investigates.