Just as the Domestic Violence Awareness Month unfurls, one Seminole County Judge sent a domestic violence victim to jail for failing to show up and testify against the man who abused her.
The case taking place in the Seminole County Court is already under the attention of the public, while many question the attitude of Judge Jerri Collins, presiding the case.
Was the case handled appropriately? Should a domestic violence victim be sent to jail?
The woman in case had reported in April that the father of her one-year-old son was beating her constantly. According to the police report filed that month, the woman declared that Myles Brennan, the perpetrator had choked her in front of their child, pressed her eyes with his thumbs and even attacked her with a knife.
Myles Brennan’s police records show that this is not the first time he engaged in domestic violence. Up until the case was set to be judged in the Seminole County Court, the domestic violence victim was highly cooperative with authorities. As the date when the woman needed to show up in court and testify against Brennan approached, she became increasingly fearful. When the date was set she failed to show up in court.
During a later hearing, Judge Jerri Collins displayed a highly aggressive attitude towards the woman. The records reveal the Judge’s tone and manner of action. Instead of the support usually expected from higher instances towards domestic violence victims, the Judge resorted to scolding the woman.
A short excerpt of the conversation taking place in the court:
“Your Honor, I’m very sorry for not attending…I’ve been dealing with depression and a lot of personal anxiety since this happened…”
“You think you’re going to have anxiety now? You haven’t even seen anxiety. You disobeyed a court order knowing that this was not going to turn out well for the state!”.
Holding the woman in contempt of the court, Judge Jerri Collins decided to sentence her to a short time in jail. While being handcuffed, the woman pleaded for understanding of her situation and the fact that her one-year-old baby would be left without his mother for that time.
As the Seminole County Judge sent a domestic violence victim to jail, questions are being raised on whether the case was handled appropriately.
According to Jeanne Gold, the CEO of SafeHouse, a prevention group against domestic violence, the Judge’s conduct was certainly inappropriate and appalling. Rather than taking revenge on the woman for apparently wasting state and court resources, a more understanding approach towards her situation would have been indicated.
Judge Collins was not available for comment. The prosecutors in the State Attorney’s Office commented that domestic violence victims are rarely jailed for the reasons invoked by the Judge, but that sometimes it happens.
Richard Hornsby, criminal-defense attorney in Orlando declared that it is common for victims of domestic violence to feel fear and anxiety at the prospect of meeting the perpetrator in court.
Currently it’s unclear if Judge Collins will face any consequences for her conduct and handling of the case.
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