Meet the judge who threw 2 people in jail after courtroom outburst

Judge Qiana Lillard talks to Kimberly Gill

DETROIT – In a courtroom outburst that went viral across the country last week, Judge Qiana Lillard sent a deadly DUI defendant's relative to jail for making a scene during the sentencing.

Lillard lashed out at Donna Kosal during Amanda Kosal's sentencing after the judge said Donna Kosal and another person were smiling, laughing and talking during statements from the crash victim's relatives.

The video has been viewed 23 million times, but behind Lillard's tough-talking exterior is a soft-spoken and smart woman who's driven to serve the law.

Local 4's Kimberly Gill sat down with Lillard to talk about the outburst, but she ended up learning much more about the judge.

Part 1 of the interview is posted above, and Part 2 is posted below.

"Not in courtroom 502," Lillard told the disrupters in court. "Not today, and not any other day."

Feb. 23 wasn't as out of the ordinary as many people would expect in courtroom 502. Even though Lillard was in command, she was still worried about what could happen.

"I knew at that moment I had to do something or this whole situation could spiral out of control," Lillard said. "I don't want that. Nobody wants that."

Donna Kosal spent the night in jail and could have faced another 92 days behind bars, but Lillard said given the circumstances, she modified the sentence to one day in jail.

"You ma'am, are going to the Wayne County Jail for 93 days," Lillard said as she sent Donna Kosal out of the courtroom before modifying the sentence.

Amanda Kosal eventually was sentenced to three to 15 years in prison for a deadly drunken driving crash this past summer in Redford Township. Kosal, who was 25 at the time of the crash on June 23, admitted she was drunk when her vehicle crossed the centerline of Beech Daly Road near Plymouth Road. She struck an SUV head-on, killing 31-year-old Jerome Zirker and severely injuring his fiancé, 31-year-old Brittany Johnson.

Lillard modified the 93-day sentence after Donna Kosal apologized the following day, telling the judge, "I was under a lot of stress."

"What you have to understand is as hard as this is for you to see your baby going to prison, imagine what that family feels like when their child is dead. I hope that you learned a valuable lesson from this," Lillard said at the hearing.

The judge told Kimberly that drama in the courtroom makes everything worse.

"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."

Lillard said her reaction wouldn't have been any different if cameras weren't in the courtroom.

She said in the nearly four years she's been a judge, she's seen a major attitude shift.

"Overall, there is a lack of civility," she said.

Donna Kosal had to learn her lesson the hard way, and so will anyone else who disrespects Lillard in her courtroom.

How does Lillard feel about her sudden stardom?

Lillard's stern sentence earned her 23 million views on the Local 4 Facebook page, and Kimberly asked how she feels about her sudden stardom.

"I don't know," Lillard said. "It's unreal. I don't know if I am technically famous. I'm internet famous. I don't know. It's weird."

Most days, Lillard said she is a soft-spoken, hard-working judge. But she said she had to learn eary how to stand up for herself.

"I think I've always been that way," she said. "Maybe it's because I was the youngest of three and the only girl.

"I mean, the WWF was popular when I was a kid. ... No patience for nonsense."

Some of Lillard's quotes from the courtroom drama were also trending on Twitter. "Not in courtroom 502" and "not today" have become popular.

With her new fame, what's next for Lillard? Some people said she needs her own show.

"You just have to stand ready," Lillard said. "I don't know."

You can hear the first part of Kimberly's interview with Lillard in the video above. Part two of the interview is posted below.

About the Authors:

You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.