|Bob Aul/OC Weekly|
Inside Superior Court Judge William R. Froeberg's spacious 10th-floor Santa Ana courtroom on June 20, Richard Raymond Ramirez--a silent, body-chained, convicted killer--sat peacefully, an illusion masking monstrous sensibilities. Though waiting for the penalty phase of his most recent 2013 trial for raping, sodomizing and fatally stabbing a woman 19 times outside a Garden Grove bar in 1983, Ramirez--whose earlier conviction and death row status was overturned by a federal court--disappeared as a factor on this day. Instead, a homicide prosecutor, defense lawyers, the judge and the victim's sisters clashed over the sanctity of Orange County's criminal justice system.
Froeberg is a no-nonsense man known for an often-acerbic persona and occasional, perfectly timed one-liner wit that relaxes juror tensions during stressful trials. Having served on the bench for 29 years and won senior status long ago to handle complex criminal cases, he is a favorite among prosecutors in the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA), where his wife manages the sexual-assault unit. He has made no secret he's in his final months on the bench before retirement and, though never shy, nowadays apparently feels even more freedom to pontificate.More »