All the pious nonsense about domestic violence continues at the state Capitol, what with advocacy of more government programs and shelters to help victims, everything except the one thing that might work -- timely and ordinary prosecution of the perpetrators.

Most women murdered as a result of domestic violence die brandishing a so-called protective order from the Superior Court, and most of them die at the hands of a perpetrator the authorities have had plenty of chances to put away. There seems to have been another such case on Feb. 25 in Middletown, where a woman called the police to report that her husband was breaking into her home even though she had a protective order against him. Then her phone went dead. When police arrived they found the woman fatally stabbed. Her husband was apprehended on a highway a few miles away.


Then the Middletown Press reported that there actually had been two protective orders against the murder suspect, the first resulting from his arrest on harassment charges on Oct. 17, the second from his arrest Nov. 24 on a charge of violating the first order. But according to the Press after each violation judges released him on $500 bail.

The man hasn’t been convicted of anything yet. But if there was even a little competence at the General Assembly, instead of the usual posturing about the supposed need for more domestic violence programs and shelters, there might be an inquiry as to why Connecticut could not bring this particular defendant to trial and address his case with something more serious than nominal bail in the four months between his first arrest for threatening his wife and her murder. What were Connecticut’s courts doing in those four months that was more important? How many drug or prostitution cases or other cases of victimless crime did they handle? How many zoning cases? How many more loose ends from those decades-long and as yet ineffectual lawsuits of supposedly great constitutional and social import, Horton vs. Meskill and Sheff vs. O’Neill?

Maybe the legislature at least could arrange for protective orders to carry a disclaimer on the copies given to recipients, like: “This order is just for show. Connecticut’s criminal-justice system can’t be bothered with you until you’re murdered. If you want protection [ITALICS] before [END ITALICS] then, get a gun and learn how to use it, or move out of state.”

Where were you and what were you doing at 5:30 p.m. March 1, 2000? Or on that date 20 years ago? How about 30 years ago? Forty years ago? Fifty?

Unless you keep a careful diary or weren’t born yet, you probably can’t answer those questions persuasively. That is why there are statutes of limitations, which prohibit prosecution or civil suit beyond a certain time after an alleged crime or tort. But there may be another powerful reason for statutes of limitations. For some crimes, particularly sex crimes, are considered so horrible that any accusation is likely to be believed at any time.

That’s what Connecticut might have learned from the three sensational sex crime exonerations the state has seen in recent years.

James C. Tillman was convicted of a rape in Hartford and served 18 years in prison until DNA evidence cleared him in 2006.

Kenneth “Ricky” Ireland Jr. was convicted of a rape and murder in Wallingford and served 21 years in prison until DNA evidence cleared him last year.

Also cleared by DNA evidence last year was Miguel Roman, who had served 20 years in prison upon conviction of murdering his girlfriend in Hartford.

All three wrongful convictions were based on the credibility of witnesses, and in all three cases crucial witnesses were lying, hallucinating, or just negligent. The juries failed to pick up on it.

But in response to the huge collection of child pornography discovered in 2007 at the former home of a doctor, now dead, who worked at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, evidence that has cinched many claims of sexual abuse against him, some state legislators want to repeal Connecticut’s statute of limitations on lawsuits for damages for sexual abuse. The statute is not much of a limit to begin with -- 30 years from the accuser’s 18th birthday -- but some who claim to have been abused by the doctor are older than 48 and thus barred from suing the hospital and its operator, the Hartford Catholic Archdiocese.

Unjust as that may be, it’s not as much of an injustice as Connecticut would risk if it repealed the statute of limitations here. With so many people so inclined to believe any horrible accusation any time, 30 years is already too long.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

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