Judge Qiana Lillard’s no-nonsense attitude behind the bench gained national attention last week after the Wayne County Circuit Court judge kicked two people out of her courtroom for laughing during a deadly DUI sentencing on Friday.
When Lillard heard giggles from the family of Amanda Kosal, 25, who, according to NBC affiliate WDIV in Michigan admitted she was drunk when she struck an SUV head-on, killing 31-year-old Jerome Zirker and severely injuring his fiancée, 31-year-old Brittany Johnson, this past summer, she didn’t hesitate to take action.
“I understand you all are very upset because your loved one is going to prison — but guess what? She’s going to prison for the choices that she made. These people are here grieving, saddened because a senseless act took away their loved one, and you’re sitting here acting like it’s a joke?” Lilliard scolded as she told Kosal’s mother, Donna, she would be taken into court for criminal contempt. “Not in Courtroom 502. Not today and not any other day.”
Now, nearly a week after a video from inside the courtroom went viral with more than 23 million views on Facebook, Lillard is speaking out about the approach some viewers may consider a little unorthodox.
“I knew at that moment I had to do something or this whole situation could spiral out of control,” Lillard told WDIV in an exlusive interview Wednesday night. “I don’t want that. Nobody wants that.”
Lilliard told the mom she would be going to Wayne County Jail for 93 days, but Donna’s sentence was reduced to one day in jail, time served, after she apologized the next morning in court.
“The last thing you want is for some fight or something like that to break out and just make everything worse, so I feel like it is my job to make sure order is maintained. So I did what I had to do,” Lilliard told WDIV.
Cameras or no cameras, Lilliard said her reaction would have been the same, adding that she’s seen a serious attitude shift inside the courtroom within the past four years she’s been a judge.
“Overall, there is a lack of civility,” she said.
As the youngest of three and the only girl in her family, Lilliard said she’s learned to stand up for herself and others.
“I think I’ve always been that way,” she told WDIV.
Lillard took to Facebook last week to thank the millions of people who watched the video of the court proceedings, and those who reached out to her personally.
“Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to visit this page to express your feelings,” she wrote. “I am honored to have the privilege of serving the citizens of Wayne County.”
Hundreds of people replied, praising the judge for her actions.
“Thank you for treating this seriously,” one Facebook user wrote. “It is not a joke and should not be treated lightly.”
“It’s about time someone demands respect again! Thank you!” another commented.
Some even suggested the judge should have her own television show. Lilliard told WDIV people will just have to wait and see.
“You just have to stand ready,” Lillard said. “I don’t know.”