Navigating conflict in a marital relationship can be difficult. When family violence spills into the legal system, the situation can become even more strained. The legal system must respect the rights of individuals while protecting the public from an individual who may pose a threat. In a recent case, one court was walking a thin line and is now drawing sharp criticism from all sides.
Sheila Kimball was subpoenaed to appear in court against her husband, Richard Kimball, on domestic violence charges. When she did not appear, a judge ordered her to be picked up and brought to court. Still wearing the pajamas she had on when taken into custody, the 52-year-old Mrs. Kimball refused to testify in court. As a result, the Kennebec County Superior Court held her in contempt and she was jailed for a night.
District Attorney Maeghan Maloney now faces harsh criticism for the treatment of Mrs. Kimball. Maloney insisted that her office does not put victims on trial. She insisted that the prosecution benefits the community. Maloney believes that in cases of domestic violence, a spouse is not the only victim. Prosecution cannot be jeopardized by the lack of testimony of a spouse.
The issue of victim's rights is an important aspect of any domestic violence case. Maintaining the integrity of the case requires that the rights of both victim and accused are properly preserved. But, for a criminal defendant, oftentimes it is very important to take advantage of any aspect of the case which could result in a dismissal of the charges.
Source: www.abajournal.com, "Domestic violence victim put on stand in pajamas, then jailed overnight for refusing to testify," Martha Neil, June 3, 2014