Sometimes you gotta be cruel to be kind. Sometimes I find myself agreeing with Amanda Marcotte. But John Cole is still full of shit.
A judge in Seminole County, Florida will not discuss her harsh tone toward a sobbing domestic violence victim whom she sentenced to three days in jail, WFTV-TV reported.
WFTV published footage of the July hearing on Tuesday. Collins has refused to comment on her decision because the woman could still file an appeal.
Collins, who was re-elected last year, sent the woman to jail for refusing a court order to appear during the trial of her abuser. According to WFTV, she also had the option of fining the woman or ordering her to perform community service for failing to respond to the subpoena.
The unidentified man, who is the father of the victim’s 1-year-old son, was accused of choking her and grabbing a kitchen knife. The woman says in courtroom footage that she refused to attend the trial because she was dealing with depression.
“Why didn’t you show up to court?” Collins asks.
“I’m just, my anxiety, and I’m just –” the woman replies.
“You think you’re going to have anxiety now?” Collins says. “You haven’t even seen anxiety. We had a jury — six people there — ready to try [the abuser], who has a prior criminal history of domestic violence.”
Collins later asks the woman whether her statements to police following the man’s arrest in April were true. The woman says that they were, then explains, “I’m trying to move on with my life,” saying she was living with her parents and had sold all of her possessions because she was not able to receive child support. Her abuser, she said, lost his job after being sentenced to 16 days in jail on charges of simple battery.
“I’m just not in a good place right now,” the woman says while audibly holding back tears.
“And violating your court order did not do anything for you,” the judge responds. “I find you in contempt of court. I hereby sentence you to three days in the county jail.”
The victim can be heard crying as bailiffs approach. Collins then orders her to turn around in order to be handcuffed.
John Cole is outraged, probably in large part because he believes that the Honorable Judge Jerri Collins is a Republican because she was originally appointed to the bench by Jeb Bush. I have no idea what her politics are, but at the local level judges are generally non-partisan positions.
I know from personal experience that domestic violence cases are messy and frustrating for everyone involved. If the guy in this case is guilty then he really should be doing some hard time.
Here’s where I agree with Amanda Marcotte:
The victim’s refusal to cooperate is a problem endemic to the prosecution of domestic violence, as I wrote in September. In Queens, N.Y., law enforcement reports that victims recant their testimony in 9 out of 10 cases. It’s not necessarily, as Rose suggests, simply because they are so traumatized by the violence itself that rehashing it with prosecutors feels too overwhelming. Research shows that a victim’s refusal to cooperate with a prosecution is more about her relationship to the abuser. In this particular case, the victim has a long-standing history with one of her attackers, which suggests that she probably doesn’t see this in the same way that someone kidnapped and assaulted by complete strangers would. While there are some interventions that can help reduce the problem of victims who recant out of these complex feelings, there’s no silver bullet of counseling that will get all victims to see things the way prosecutors want them to.
The sad, unavoidable truth is that we have to decide what’s more important to us: putting abusive men in jail or letting their victims opt out of cooperating with the prosecution as they see fit. Always erring on the side of victim sensitivity means putting some very bad men back out on the streets, where they will likely attack someone else. If that’s the price that you feel is worth paying, OK, but it’s also understandable that prosecutors might try to do everything within their power to convict a guy who likes tying women to chairs and assaulting them.
There is a lot we do not know about this case. From what I am reading between the lines the guy was allowed to plead out to simple battery when the alleged victim failed to appear. We don’t know the seriousness of his prior conviction(s) nor do we know the specifics of what he was charged with this time. We don’t know what took place procedurally at the earlier hearings or what interactions the judge had with this woman.
I don’t know how they do things in Florida but around here the prosecutor would have to push for a contempt charge. On the other hand judges tend to get pissed when you don’t do what they tell you to do.
I have seen domestic violence victims compelled to appear and testify in court. I have seen them get punished for refusing to cooperate. I have even seen one woman prosecuted for perjury when she testified that she made it all up. She was convicted.
How do you protect these women if they keep going back to their abusers?
One last thing: Like the judge, I wasn’t impressed with the woman’s histrionics. I have seen too many women who can turn the waterworks on and off. Unless and until I know more about the case, I intend to keep an open mind.