Florida judge jails domestic violence victim for failing to face attacker in court

Judge Jerri Collins

Occasionally there are cases that make you scratch your head and really question the American legal system. Case in point: Judge Jerri Collins from Seminole County, Florida, sentenced a domestic violence victim to three days in jail after the unnamed woman failed to appear at her alleged attacker’s trial.

According to footage from the sentencing obtained by WFTV, the victim called for help in April when the father of her child allegedly choked her and threatened her with a kitchen knife. The victim later said she wanted to drop the charges and move on with her life. Despite that, the state elected to move forward with the trial — and subpoenaed the victim to testify in the courtroom when the alleged attacker was present. The woman failed to appear, which led to her July meeting with Judge Collins for being in contempt of court.

In the footage, Judge Collins asked the woman why she didn’t go to the initial trial. The woman explained, “I’ve been dealing with depression and just a lot personally since this happened. My anxiety is like, this is everyday for me.” But Judge Collins didn’t have any sympathy. Instead she warned the victim, “You think you’re going to have anxiety now? You haven’t even seen anxiety.”

The victim again claimed she really “wasn’t in a good place right now,” to which the judge said, “You disobeyed a court order, knowing that this was not going to turn out well for the state… I hereby sentence you to three days in the county jail.” As the woman was handcuffed, she issued one last, unsuccessful plea, “Judge, I’ll do anything… I have a 1-year-old son and I’m trying to take care of him by myself. I’m begging you, please, please don’t.”

In comparison to the victim’s three-day sentence, the man spent just 16 days in jail for simple battery.

SafeHouse CEO Judy Gold said the judge’s ruling sends a horrible message to domestic violence victims, such as the woman from this case. Gold said, “She’ll never call again. Look what happened to her. She could be lying, broken in a ditch somewhere, and she would probably not call police because of what happened to her in this place.”

People weighing in online are mostly baffled by Judge Collins’ reasoning.

“That judge is abusing her power and further victimizing this woman. How sad. She knows nothing about psychology and the impact being abused and left homeless can have on someone,” one commented.

Another said on Twitter, “And you wonder why many #domesticviolence victims suffer in silence.”

Despite the backlash, the Florida State’s Attorney’s Office defended Judge Collins’ ruling in a statement to ABC News: “The case was poised for trial and a jury was sworn. The victim refused to attend court the day of trial, going so far as to tell the State Attorney’s Office that she didn’t care if she was arrested as a result of her not complying with the court’s subpoena. The victim’s decision to thwart the court process by refusing to cooperate, despite a properly issued subpoena for her to appear in court, triggered the State to pursue an Order to Show Cause against her, and the Court’s subsequent sentence.”

Do you think the ruling was justified or unreasonable?

shopify traffic stats