Appointed to the bench in 2005 by then-Governor Jeb Bush, the Florida County Judge Jerri Collins found herself in front of the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday, being publicly reprimanded—live on TV. This was Judge Collins’ penalty for her repugnant treatment of a domestic abuse victim who failed to show up to her abuser’s trial. Josie Duffy with Daily Kos reported on this story in October of 2015:
The woman [domestic violence victim] 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."
Duffy notes many domestic violence victims are often afraid and anxious about attending the trial of their abusers. The victim in this case said it was anxiety that caused her not to show up. In response, Judge Jerri Collins told the victim:
"You think you're going to have anxiety now? You haven't even seen anxiety,"
The victim replied:
"I'm just not in a good place right now."
“I’m homeless now. I’m living at my parents’ house,” the woman said as she sobbed. “Everything has been shut off. I just sold everything I own.”
Collins responded with veracious scorn:
"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.
While being taken into custody the victim cried out:
“Judge, I’ll do anything. Please, please!” the woman begged. “I have a 1-year-old son and I’m trying to take care of him by myself. I’m begging you, please, please!”
Collins was unmoved. The victim was sentenced to three days in jail. Her abuser got 16 days.
The Washington post reports a plea deal was reached earlier this year with a state agency that “polices” judges and Collins agreed to a public reprimand, but in July, the state Supreme Court issued an order stating a public reprimand was not a sufficient punishment. Collins was ordered to complete a courses in anger management and a course in domestic violence, even though as a judge, she had legal authority to jail the domestic violence.
Here is the video of Judge Jerri Collins being publicly reprimanded for berating a domestic violence victim.
Collins was told her behavior was “intolerable.” Some excerpts from the public reprimand include:
- “You found the victim in contempt of court and send her to spend three days in jail even though the victim pleaded with you that she needed to take care of a one-year-old child”
- “The victim apologized for failing to appear, citing anxiety, depression and a desire to move on from contact with her abuser as reasons why she did not appear for trial, Meanwhile, Judge Collins, you raised your voice, used sarcasm, spoke harshly and interrupted the victim.”
- “We order you to complete and anger management course and attend a domestic violence course provided by the Florida Judicial College. We further ordered you appear hear today to be publicly reprimanded, on live television, so that the people of Florida know and understand that conduct such as yours will not be tolerated.
- Judge Collins, this is indeed a sad day for you, a sad day for the people of Florida and a sad day for the judiciary upon which our people depend for justice. I cannot emphasize enough how intolerable your behavior was in this case.”
Good. More of this, please. It’s too bad former Florida District Attorney Angela Corey wan’t publicly
reprimanded for her treatment of single mother and domestic violence victim Marissa Alexander, who fired a shot into the air to keep her serial abuser husband from attacking her and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Florida has a long way to go. This is hopefully the start of new direction. No victim of domestic violence should ever be treated so cruel and disrespectfully. Ever.
If you are being abused, or know someone who is, there is help. Please contact: National
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE
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