Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's Not DV If She Liked It

A judge on Friday acquitted a Maryland man of an assault on his girlfriend in the parking lot of a gas station because she refused to testify against him. It isn't at all uncommon that domestic violence victims refuse to testify against their partners in court, for fear of retribution, because incarceration would remove her family's source of income, or for other reasons. This case was different, however, because a police officer witnessed the assault.

Judge Paul Harris's excuse for acquittal:
The judge said that without the woman's testimony, he could not be sure that she hadn't consented to the attack. "You have very rare cases; sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up."
Because the victim wasn't willing to testify, despite other witnesses, the judge assumed that the attack was welcomed and that a violent man should therefore go free. Other legal experts disagree:

"Unless he found that the officer was not credible, it appears that there would be enough by which a typical fact-finder, a reasonable fact-finder, would have found the element of second- degree assault to exist in that case beyond a reasonable doubt," Byron L. Warnken, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said. "The notion that you can't possibly try this case without the victim there is incorrect. What would we do in a murder case?"
Later Harris said the sadomasochist comment was intended as a hypothetical. "I'm probably as against domestic violence as anybody, when the case is proven." Comforting.

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