This post is inspired by the case of Greg Hardy, a Carolina Panthers NFL player whose prosecution for domestic abuse fell apart when his victim didn't show up for the trial.
Domestic violence charges against Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy have been dismissed, with his accuser not making herself available to help with the case, prosecutors announced Monday.
Hardy's appeal of his 2014 conviction was scheduled to begin Monday morning at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, but his accuser, ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder, did not show up for the hearing.
In a statement explaining the decision to dismiss charges, the district attorney's office said it has "reliable information" that Holder and Hardy have reached a civil settlement and that she has "intentionally made herself unavailable to the State." (source)
The question I'm asking is, in a case like this, would it be re-victimization of the abuse victim to apply legal pressure for her to testify? And if it is re-victimization, would it be in the wider best interest of the community and larger world to force her to testify as a means of getting the offender off the street, into treatment (if he needs it), and prevent future offenses, especially considering that this sort of behavior tends to escalate?
In this case, by settling with the victim, he has essentially bought his way out of a criminal prosecution and perverted the course of justice.
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I don't think there's any way to change the law. If the victim won't testify, the defense can say "You claim X happened. Where's the victim? We'd like to question her."
Some victims are afraid of what happens after the trial when the perpetrator is finally freed, which will always happen unless they are convicted of murder, and not always even then. But of course, if the one he murders is the victim, there's no question of forcing her to testify.
I'm talking about victims who clearly have been abused but refuse to participate in the prosecution or, worse, as appears to be the case here, have been "bought off" by the perpetrator.
In Norway, it is possible for the court to place the defendant in a separate room where he or she can listen to the testimony given by the victim, so that the victim doesn't need to see the abuser face-to-face. Also, most victims of violence (ofc including rape survivors) get their own support attorney to take care of their rights in particular.
When it comes to children, they are interviewed at a separate house entirely, so they don't need to appear before the court.
I used to work with The Red Cross as a Witness Supporter and I saw how devastating it was for the survivors of awful crimes to come to the courthouse, having to revisit and account for everything, even if they know they won't be seeing the person charges with the crime, so I think it would be a good thing to have other arrangements for the victims of the worst crimes.
It's the same in many EU countries (for men, women, adults, children etc.).
What were your experiences like with the red cross program Marianne?
The Red Cross' Witness Support Service is a much needed addition to the courthouse. There are courthouse police officers in place, of course, but they can only do so much.
The service was 100% voluntary and we had our own office at the courthouse where we could receive witnesses who had questions and keep them company if they were very anxious or upset. We'd do rounds on the court room levels and find witnesses to see if they had questions, and in (a calculated guess) 70% of all the witnesses, they were unsure of what to do exactly. If we subtract the expert witnesses and the police officers from that number, the percentage would go up. (We'd often encounter policewomen or men dressed in civilian clothing, and they'd find it amusing that we'd sometimes mistake them for scared witnesses).
We'd walk around with a phone so that attorneys or others could reach us. This was very handy if, say, we were keeping a tremendously scared witness company in our office, and they couldn't bear waiting outside the courtroom.
The main two things we did were giving information and showing support and compassion for a fellow human being. I'd often accompany the witnesses into the courtroom if they wanted me to, and having someone on their side, even just as part of the audience, could make them more secure in their testimony.
Badgering the witness isn't very common (if at all) in Norwegian courthouses, in comparison to the US, I think. This is one of the things that is a discredit to the justice system in general and the attorneys in particular.
While a judge can't do an end run around the Constitution's 14th Amendment (with the rather tiny exception afforded kids under about 6 years of age, usually in sex abuse cases), he CAN instruct attorneys to be careful not to badger children.
That's fine and dandy, but in the case referred to, it seems the perpetrator paid the victim to keep her mouth shut. And, as an NFL football player, I'm sure it was a lot of money.
So, now he's free to do it again.
Unfortunately, Norway's law would be hard to apply in the US. You see, the Constitution stands in the way.
The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him." Generally, the right is to have a face-to-face confrontation with witnesses who are offering testimonial evidence against the accused in the form of cross-examination during a trial. The Fourteenth Amendment makes the right to confrontation applicable to the states and not just the federal government. The right only applies to criminal prosecutions, not civil cases or other proceedings. (Wikipedia)
As for your last paragraph, that is true in any prosecution. Either from prison or after being released, a bad person can continue to abuse in various ways. It's not unique to domestic abuse at all.