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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Judge Holmes shows no mercy to men accused of family violence

Justice system funds itself, sometimes at the expense of families.
"Justice means guaranteeing that no one is mistreated and making sure those who need constructive help get it."  --- Neely Fuller, Jr.

When she was sworn into office last year as magistrate judge, it was hoped that the first woman and first black breaking through the judicial glass ceiling in Cobb County, Ga. would uphold the law while still being compassionate in administering justice. 

After all, it was thought that Judge Joyette Holmes, a psychology major before she secured her law degree, would be sensitive to breaking up families; would be aware of high statistics featuring black and brown children with incarcerated fathers. You would think that she would try to avoid adding to the system of mass incarcerated, non-employable males; of women and children becoming victims of poverty when the breadwinner spends time behind bars; that women left alone to fend for themselves often become burdens to grandmothers who cannot afford bail and bonds. 

Compassion from Holmes was not to be had today, however.  No pass was given, and two sad families were at the mercy of the State which makes money from the system it creates.

But when one calls the police, whether as a victim of a crime or a witness, one must realize that getting the criminal justice system involved in personal, domestic matters can have unintended consequences which can lead to the destruction of the family, i.e. state sponsored genocide.

In my opinion, I was hoping, after all these years of watching Perry Mason, that Judge Holmes would come to the rescue of these families, but she failed the mercy test today, taking the side of the state which profits from probable cause cases being ruled in the defendant’s displeasure. Bonds ranging from $7,500 to $15,000 were levied on families who seemed unable to pay. 

A three-year old boy reached for his father when he came into the courtroom. The father was wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs instead of a watch. The detective testifying admitted this was his first family violence case, but hurriedly issued a warrant for the man’s arrest before all the data was compiled. 

It seemed like a setup, and no witnesses were called to tell what had happened, although four of them had said Mr. P had disciplined his sons by loud shouts, spanking with a belt, and shoving them against the car. None of the witnesses had offered the kids any help.  It reminded me of medieval times when the accused could be killed just because someone lied about them. It reminded me of the Salem Witch trials. 

The court admitted no bruises or abrasions were found on the children within 24 hours of the incident allegedly taking place.  Judge Holmes sat silent for minutes reading over papers and said she was having a problem ruling, but still sided with the state anyway, not the man’s family who probably needed him at home. 

His girlfriend seemed not to understand what was going on. She was crying silently while holding her sleeping toddler. She couldn't understand if the judge had set bail for $7500 or $75,000. 

The well-behaved three year old had a distressed look on his face, one of the most pitiful I have ever seen, and he fell from his seat and hit his head hard on the wooden bench in front of him. The detective who said he feared for the boy’s safety before didn’t flinch as the boy was escorted out of the courtroom. The grandmother was powerless.

Judge Holmes also reviewed another case involving a Hispanic man who had an interpreter tell him what was going on in court. His attorney pleaded that he be charged with misdemeanor battery instead of felony aggravated assault, but the judge ruled there was probable cause that Mr. L was a very violent offender. 

After all, police showed up at his house in the wee hours of the morning after a 911 hang up call and found his pregnant girlfriend with strangle marks on her neck. She had not pressed charges, but the police had arrested the man who could not communicate in English. Bail was set at $15,000, and the man was sent home with the understanding that there would be no violence, no alcohol, and no firearms in the home. 

“I need a family," his girlfriend emotionally told the judge. "I’m four months pregnant, and he has helped me raise my other son. I’ve known him for six months.” They both work for low wages in a restaurant. 

Thinking about this more carefully, though, Judge Holmes is a consummate legal professional who had more experience than I do with the law and was privy to more information that I was concerning the histories of Mr. L and Mr. P. She is responsible for making sure that Mr. L. and Mr. P don't violently interact with close family members or other citizens in the future. She has a hard responsibility.

Too bad Judge Holmes' office could not recommend counseling for these families or help these folks secure decent jobs to support their families. Too bad she couldn't have talked to that three year old and relayed to him that he had a bright future, no matter what happened to his dad.

Someone ought to find out how these families are fairing 5-10 years from now, to see if justice prevailed.

Updated 10/15/2016

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