A Florida judge yelled at a domestic violence victim and sentenced her to three days in jail for not attending her abuser's trial.
The woman called for help in April 2015, stating that the father of her child choked her and threatened her with a knife. After he was arrested, the woman began having serious anxiety about the incident. According to recently uncovered video evidence obtained by WFTV, "she told the state's victim's advocate that she wanted to drop the charges and move on with her life rather than testify, but she was still called in to court."
Like many domestic violence victims who are scared and anxious about attending the trial of their abuser, the woman chose not to show up to testify. She cited her anxiety and the pain she had been feeling since her boyfriend was arrested. In response, Judge Jerri Collins, who was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush and now stands for re-election every six years, tore her apart.
"You think you're going to have anxiety now? You haven't even seen anxiety," Judge Collins told the woman in July, refusing to acknowledge the fact that this woman was a victim of a violent crime.
The judge then exhibited a total lack of understanding regarding domestic violence victims. "The incident that happened on April 2, is it true?" she asked.
When the woman stated that the abuse did occur, the judge said "Then why wouldn't you come to testify?" See more below.
"I'm just not in a good place right now," said the woman.
"And violating your court order did not do anything for you. I find you in contempt of court. I hereby sentence you to three days in the county jail," said the judge.
Remember something important: Judge Collins is an elected judge. She is chosen by the people and, like any other elected official, she deserves scrutiny.
Throwing someone in jail has serious collateral consequences. Sure, three days doesn't seem so long, but that's three days of lost income, three days away from her job which could result in termination, and three days away from her children. A woman who has already been through at least one serious domestic violence incident now has this on her record, which can result in even more barriers, especially in regards to housing and employment.
Judge Collins doesn't seem to have any understanding of victims, especially domestic violence victims. Women like her often have strong and complicated feelings about testifying. To berate this woman and indicate that perhaps her story isn't true because she didn't testify is cruel and ineffective. Domestic violence cases require a person to understand the situation and address the problem.
This woman went to jail for three days, while her abuser was sentenced to 16. She was scared, worried, and abused—but instead of protecting her, the court punished her. Remember this next time you're at the voting booth and see Judge Jerri Collins' name on the ballot.