Barred From Her Own Home: How a Tool for Fighting Domestic Abuse Fails

June 18, 2021 5:55 pmComments Off on Barred From Her Own Home: How a Tool for Fighting Domestic Abuse FailsViews: 6

Andy Newman Writes:
Dated: 18 June 2021
Shamika Crawford was left homeless and separated from her children by an order of protection that was later rejected. Lawyers say cases like theirs are common.
Shamika Crawford stood before the judge on the day she was arrested in the Bronx. She was free to leave, but not to go home: the judge issued a security order that barred her from her own apartment.
For the next 88 days, Ms Crawford was left homeless based on a vaguely worded abuse assault complaint filed by her on-again, off-again boyfriend. She lived in her car and crashed on a friend’s couch. He lost his full time job. With nowhere to bring her two young children, she left them with her boyfriend, their father, in their public-dwelling apartment, where she continued to pay rent.

Ms Crawford, 35, said: “It seems that whoever calls the police, they are on his side.”
When another judge eventually investigated the case, it was settled, and eventually dismissed.

Crawford-like situations, say public defenders in New York City and some domestic-violence experts, are an everyday occurrence in a corner of the justice system where defendants are effectively presumed guilty rather than innocent.

A temporary safety order, also known as a stay-away order, is a well-thought-out pre-trial precaution to protect people from abusive partners. But it is issued in the city courts with such abandon that it has become a punishment in itself. One state legislator, Manhattan Assemblyman Dan Quart, said its overuse amounted to a “family separation policy”.

Prosecutors in domestic violence cases almost always request orders, and judges give them almost implicitly: In Ms. Crawford’s case in 2019, the judge said he would issue orders before he told his lawyer to speak on it. Give a chance

But since most cases of misdemeanor domestic violence are dismissed, temporary orders rarely become permanent. The state’s court system said that in criminal court in the Bronx, which has the city’s highest rate of domestic violence complaints, less than 4 percent of temporary protection orders were converted to permanent ones last year.

Yet orders usually last for months. And for those with low incomes and few resources, the consequences are often disastrous, unless the underlying criminal charge disappears. Public defenders across the city described case after case where people lose their jobs, their homes, their rental assistance. Immigrants are kept in custody for months. Displaced people sleeping in their cars are attacked and beaten up. Families are scattered.

“It’s punishing, in a big way, before someone is convicted of anything,” said Eli Northrup, one of Ms Crawford’s lawyers with the Bronx Defenders. “Every single day, you have people running out of the courtyard, and they have nowhere to go.”

In Ms Crawford’s case, a judge extended the protection order after prosecutors cited an “extensive” history of “at least 16” domestic-violence reports. He did not mention that all of them had listed her boyfriend as the attacker.

Mr. Northrup said, “In all the allegations and counter-allegations I have been in, there has been an order of protection that is meaningless and deserves to be investigated.”

Lawyers for the Bronx Defenders have filed a challenge In the case of Ms. Crawford asking a state appellate court to rule That she was entitled to a hearing in which prosecutors were required to demonstrate that a protection order was necessary. A favorable judgment may have the effect of making the defendant a rule for such hearings when they are evicted from their homes. The court is expected to make a decision within weeks.

a Bill before the State Legislature The call for the same thing and sponsored by Mr. Quart, who is also running for Manhattan district attorney, stopped last week before the session ended.

The roots of the problem date back to the turn of the last century, when New York, like other states, enacted mandatory-arrest laws for domestic violence cases. That protective impulse is now colliding with another wave of criminal-justice reforms aimed at making the system less punitive, such as a 2019 New York law effectively eliminating bail and pre-detention for most misdemeanors.

Leigh Goodmark, a scholar who has argued that domestic violence should not be treated separately from other crimes, said that sometimes the complainant turns out to be the real abuser. “There’s literature on this – it’s called system abuse,” said Ms. Goodmark, director of the Gender Violence Clinic at the University of Maryland Law School.

But the over-taxed criminal justice system, she said, defaults to the easiest way to handle a complex problem. “Once the police and prosecutors have identified someone as a defendant, it’s like flipping the switch for them, and they can’t see that person any other way, no matter what evidence is presented,” Ms. Goodmark said.

Orders of protection, he added, provide something valuable: cover. “No one wants to be the judge who doesn’t issue an order of protection and then opens the newspaper the next day to find out something terrible is happening.”

Court-of-the-Court Brief Description Filed by other public defender groups In the case of the Bronx Defenders, there are security-order-checked summaries that read like Kafka’s sequences.

A Brooklyn man rents a room in his apartment. Tenant smokes, against his will. Men argue. The tenant has accused the youth of assault. A protection order renders the man homeless while the tenant stays in his apartment without paying rent. Months later, the case is dismissed.

A man in Manhattan has been separated from his 2-year-old son for seven months while prosecutors continue to threaten his wife after finding out that she has withdrawn her charge and that she herself is harassing her family. refused to deny the charges.

As far as Ms Crawford is concerned, a plethora of police reports describing abuse at the hands of the father of her children, Kevin Meyers, date back to at least 2013.

A 2016 report said he punched her in the eye and strangled her. Another says he thrashed the friend with a stick to eliminate him, then ran through the window to evade arrest. In 2018, Ms Crawford said she was taken twice for psychiatric evaluation after he punched her in the head.

(Mr. Meyers did not respond to a message seeking comment sent to an email listed for him on a police report.)

On November 3, 2019, Ms. Crawford said, Mr. Meyers and his 32-year-old brother had an altercation at their apartment. She said she did not participate, but was charged with “acting in concert” with two men accused of punching and kicking Mr Meyers and stealing a gold chain.

In her objection, her lawyer, Edward Soto, asked for a limited protection order, allowing her to return home as long as she did not threaten or assault Mr. Meyers, rather than an order to stay away outright. is. The judge, Jeffrey Rosenbluth, placed the burden of proof on the defense, refusing to limit the order without the consent of the prosecution.

At the next hearing, Mr Soto told a separate judge, Shahabuddin A. complained to aide, that the security order had given Meyers control of Ms Crawford’s apartment, even though it was not on the lease. Judge Eli recommended her to go to the housing court, where proceedings usually take several months.

Ms. Crawford’s world was crumbling. If she moved into a shelter with her 5-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, she would lose her leash. He spent several weeks sleeping in his car. “I’ll put on my coat, go to sleep, get back up and turn on the heat, warm up a bit, turn it off,” she said.

As the weather turned cold, she went to her friend’s couch. He told his children over a video call that he was in Alabama to visit the family.

“I didn’t want to overwhelm them with a bunch of information they wouldn’t understand,” she said.

When the matter was not resolved within two months, she was fired from her full-time job as a developmentally disabled adult. She lost her part-time job taking care of an 11-year-old boy.

On January 30, 2020, nearly three months after Ms. Crawford’s arrest, a third judge, Audrey E. Stone, examined various prosecutors’ statements and found they were full of discrepancies.

She reads about six years of reports about Mr Meyers’ increasingly erratic behavior and wonders about his credibility.

Judge Stone told a prosecutor about Ms. Crawford: “From all the information I’ve read here, I think she’s at greater risk than your complainant.” She amended the protection order to allow Ms. Crawford to return home.

A spokeswoman for the Bronx District Attorney, Darsell D. Clark, said in a statement that in domestic violence cases, “we often request full orders of protection because the history of prior domestic violence between the parties can be taken into account and the facts of the individual case.” warrants. Support it.”

In paper protest In the Bronx Defenders’ appeals court challenge, the state attorney general’s office wrote that Ms Crawford’s lawyers had “multiple opportunities to present evidence” against the full stay-away order.

On March 5, 2020, 123 days after Ms Crawford’s arrest, her case was under trial. An assistant district attorney, Paul Anderson, stepped forward.

“People have an application to dismiss the instrument of imputation because people can’t meet their burden of evidence at trial,” he said. The case was closed.
Courtesy: The New York Times

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