coinoperated (coinoperated) wrote in feministvoice,

Judge: "Sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up"

In the messy world of domestic violence cases, often complicated by a lover's willingness to forgive, this one had a promising twist for prosecutors: Though the woman refused to testify against her boyfriend, a police officer said she had witnessed the attack in a Laurel gas station parking lot.

But Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul Harris, in a decision that has victims' rights advocates crying foul, acquitted the man charged with second-degree assault after he was accused of striking his girlfriend three times in the face. The judge said that without the woman's testimony, he could not be sure that she hadn't consented to the attack.

"The state is stepping into the shoes of the victim when she obviously doesn't care," Harris told the prosecutor, according to a recording of the Oct. 3 hearing. "It's that big brother mentality of the state. ... But I have to decide the case based on what I have, and I think a crucial element is missing."
This case has sparked absolutely justified anger from victim groups, in my opinion, not least because of the judge's apparent justification for his decision in the statement in this paragraph:
And in a comment that has riled victims' advocates and prosecutors, Harris added, "You have very rare cases; sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up."
The following is a very real concern. One hopes that the hard work of women and victims groups hasn't been undone by this decision.
With authorities across the country encouraging victims of domestic violence to come forward, concerns were raised yesterday that the judge's comments and dismissal of the case set a dangerous precedent - one that threatens to erode victims' trust in the legal system.
The judge doesn't help himself with this comment:
Harris said the sadomasochist comment was intended as a hypothetical. "I'm probably as against domestic violence as anybody, when the case is proven."
Probably?! Thank you indeed for your support.

But aside from all of the above, the case heard eye-witness evidence about the assault from a police officer. One would think that such evidence would be incriminating enough to secure a conviction. The piece calls the judge's decision 'unfortunate'. I call it atrocious.

Your thoughts?

Link to the complete piece, with thanks to shakespearessister, among others, for bringing it to our attention.

(Cross-posted to relevant communities.)
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