Olmsted County judge wins honor in NYC
The Olmsted County District Courthouse where Judge Pamela King presides may be more than 1,400 miles away from New York City’s Legal Aid Society, but that didn’t stop the organization from recognizing the judge’s good work.
Earlier this month, King was awarded the Legal Aid Society’s Magnus Mukoro Award for Integrity In Forensic Science for her dedication to fathering transparency, fairness and justice in the forensic sciences in the criminal justice system.
“I was absolutely speechless and quite honored,” King said earlier this week.
Jessica Goldthwaite, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s DNA unit, said King was chosen to receive the award because of the work she has done in the field of forensic science, both improving the accountability and quality of it as well as educating the defense community and the larger criminal justice community.
“All the defenders who are deeply involved with forensic issues know Pam because she is a national figure that stands for being really well educated on forensic issues. She’s a real mentor to other defenders. She helps connect people,” Goldthwaite said. “She is really a national figure that served in hugely important leadership roles but was also always very accessible to the average joe.”
The award is named after a beloved Legal Aid Society paralegal who died in 2015. Mukoro worked on cases where there were substantial forensic issues. The first award was presented in 2015 at the first Questioning Forensics conference held by the organization. Past recipients include a federal judge, a New York University School of Law professor and a public defender who specializes in forensics with the Los Angeles County Public Defender.
King’s interest in forensic science began through her work as a public defender.
“It was in the confines of doing that litigation that I began to learn about forensic sciences, really appreciated the importance of forensic science to our criminal justice system,” King said.
In her acceptance speech, which Goldthwaite characterized as “moving, encouraging, offered practical advice for the attorneys, and funny,” King said she spoke about the challenges within the forensic science community.
King said she told those in attendance that sometimes when they are in the midst of doing their jobs, they don’t always notice the change that happens.
“The Grand Canyon is gorgeous but it also wasn’t created in one day. It was created by a little trickle of water that ran through it over a very, very long time,” she said. “I was trying to remind those in the room that continuing to be that water that moves through rock and may not feel like it is changing anything right that day, really can have a huge impact over time.”