Snitches don’t get Stitches… Battered Women Do
Yesterday the New York Senate set up a panel to determine whether or not State Senator Hiram Monserrate shall be sanction, face expulsion, or both.
If you aren’t familiar, Senator Monserrate is that 42 yr old senator who brutally pulled and dragged his 30 year old girlfriend and slashed her face (so I heard – I have not seen the video, but the court staff who have, described something quite horrendous).
If Senator Monserrate had been convicted of the felony charges he was facing, then he would have had to surrender his Senate Seat. I am not too fond of this rule because it cuts convicted felons out from yet one more part of our society. It prevents them from participating in civics as political leaders – adding to the list of “can’t-do” that leaves felons with less to hope for. But in any case, that’s another topic for another day.
Monserrate was aquitted of the top counts but convicted of the misdemeanor of assault in the 3rd degree – meaning an assault where the defendant intentionally caused serious physical injury absent aggravating factors such as a weapon. Based off what I know happened to Karla Giraldo (the victim in this case), namely – having her face split open by Monserrate’s bottle – it is surprising he only got convicted of the misdemeanor. But when I realized that Monserrate’s (apparently brilliant) lawyer waived his client’s right to a jury, and that the DA had an uncooperative victim/complainant witness, I understood why.
Why, you ask? Because one judge on the bench as finder of law AND finder of fact means that they must hold the facts presented in the case to the law as they find it. Normally juries are taking the facts & trying their best to apply them to the law. Sometimes you get a good jury who understands the law as explained by the judge, and other times you have a jury full of people who stay home watching TNT all day & think CSI is a non-fiction reality show. These jurors are often the ones looking for truckloads of forensic evidence – as if it grows on trees. Certainly not necessary to meet the elements in all charges. The bottom line is… DA couldn’t establish aggravating factors with an uncooperative victim.
I see Karla Giraldo’s decision not to cooperate with the Queens County DA’s office as societal witness intimidation. She is young, dating this older (seemingly powerful) Brother and she is probably blaming herself for the stitches HE gave her. Some might ask – what would be the point of Giraldo testifying to what really happened? How would society benefit from Monserrate being expelled from his Senatorial Seat?
Well I have my own string of questions… How does society benefit by promoting this witness intimidation? How do we benefit from telling ourselves & these victims “you’re strong enough. you can walk away & forget about him. why drag this out?” Why are we muffling our Sisters’ cries for help by encouraging them to return to their abusers without the abuser undergoing some transformation? I say remove the pillow that smothers victims’ voices & encourage them to speak. As a defense attorney, sadly most of the information I gather to represent my client comes from the abused. I turn the information down if if smells like bullshit, but it is nevertheless available to me. Battered men and women need societal support.
Someone needs to remind Ms. Giraldo that strength does not mean “taking it”. Strength can certainly mean saying “I will allow the criminal justice system to purify itself by giving the court my story.” I’ve never been slashed in the face, but I am a survivor of domestic abuse. I was dissuaded by men & women alike. People placed “my abuse” on a ladder, reminded me I had my life & encouraged me to move on without cooperating with the States Attorney (Baltimore). Thankfully with the support of my beloved friends, I pressed on. I spoke, I cooperated, I got the result I needed, wanted & deserved. The guy I used to call my “former abuser” is now a man who has reformed, sought & gained my forgiveness, and has blossomed beautifully.
The system CAN work. We just need a village to support the victims, reform the abusers, and purify the criminal justice system.