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In a tearful announcement, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans told Metro Detroiters in a Facebook video Monday she is retiring from the bench.

"It's time now for me to close the book on being your Third Circuit judge," Evans said in in the surprise retirement announcement. "I trust that our wonderful governor, Governor (Gretchen) Whitmer will appoint someone to my seat who will continue my legacy of fairness and firmness."

Evans said she would disclose her retirement date later. 

 "I have been honored ... to serve," the judge said. I'm just at a loss for words. Thank you for believing in me ... for trusting me."

The jurist said she will be working with the Hall Makled law firm, based in Dearborn, with well-known attorneys Cyril Hall and Amir Makled, among others. Evans also said she is working on media projects "that I can't disclose."

Evans handled some of the area's most high-profile cases that made both local and national headlines, including the murder trial of former Grosse Pointe Park businessman Bob Bashara, who was convicted of murdering his wife in 2012. 

The judge also handled the trial of former Inkster police officer William Melendez in the beating of African-American motorist Floyd Dent during a January 2015 traffic stop. Evans sentenced Melendez to a 13 months to 10 years in prison.

Evans also presided over the trial of a Sumpter Township couple, Candice Diaz and Brad Fields, in the brutal abuse and murder of the woman's 4-year-old daughter.

During the sentencing of Diaz in December, Evans told the 25-year-old woman: "You are a female breeder who neglected your child for the love of a bum named Brad." 

Evans is known for her sometimes blistering comments to defendants during sentencings, as well as her effervescent personality.

In recent months, she came under scrutiny following reports by WXYZ-TV (Ch. 7) that questioned her attendance on the bench.  

Evans has been on the Third Circuit Court bench for 21 years. A 1990 graduate of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Evans is a former Wayne County assistant prosecutor, serving in the prosecutor's Office from 1990-96.

 Evans is among several African-American women who have been elected or appointed to the court that serves Wayne County. She was first elected in 1996 to the former Recorder’s Court, which merged with the Third Circuit Court a year later.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

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