The Victimocracy Strikes Back
The Harris County District Attorney’s office has asked criminal Court-at-Law Judge Reagan Helm to remove himself from two family violence cases because of “deep-seated bias and prejudice.” In motions filed Thursday, prosecutors said Helm has a history of making inappropriate comments to assistant district attorneys, victims and defendants. “These comments also signal to the victims and the community that Judge Helm believes that family violence cases are simply escalated domestic disputes, ‘stupidly’ initiated and wasting his time,” according to the motions. Prosecutors cited five specific cases and what they called a general pattern of admonishing men accused of family violence that the women who are accusing them have them “by the balls.”
(Brian Rogers, Houston Chronicle.)
The view that the DA’s Office ascribes to Judge Helm is not a politically-correct one, to be sure, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Often family violence cases are simply escalated domestic disputes, stupidly initiated and wasting the court’s time.
The DA’s Office can’t treat them that way, of course, because it is difficult to distinguish the wastes of time from the incipient homicides. Murphy’s Law dictates that the one case the DA’s Office treats as simply-an-escalated-domestic-dispute will be the case that ends with a dead complainant.
Putting aside political correctness and DA doctrine, many if not most domestic violence calls result from couples whose ordinary communications are passionate, rough, and even violent pushing each other’s buttons until one goes just a little bit farther than either planned, and the cops get called. Not that there’s any shortage of unprovoked meanness in the world, but most family violence prosecutions are simply escalated domestic disputes, resulting from general human goofiness.
And, again putting aside political correctness and DA doctrine, the accuser in a family violence case does have the accused by the balls. Just the accusation, with no physical evidence, is enough to get the accused held in jail in lieu of $50,000 bail (bail on a murder case is usually $30,000) until a judge signs a protective order and the bail is reduced. Then she (usually she) can kick him (usually him) out of the house, keep him away from her and their children, and get him thrown back in jail with a mere phone call. Thanks to the domestic-violence victimocracy, second only to the drunk-driving victimocracy, there is little in the way of due process for the man accused of hurting a loved one.
Reasonable people can differ on the merits of the majority of family violence assault cases. Sometimes the complainant wants to retract the accusation not because she’s a battered woman but because she was in the wrong in the first place. Every alleged assailant is not a ticking time bomb.
A judge who can’t follow the law shouldn’t be judging (and there is a good argument to be made that Judge Helm should, for other reasons, have already stepped down with dignity), but there is no law that requires a judge to drink the DA’s domestic violence Kool-Aid.
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