Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wouldn't Have Wanted To Be This Judge ...

I'm not sure how much national press this got, but here in the DFW area it's been a hot news topic for the past week or so.

23 year old Elizabeth Escalona has been on trial.  She is a single mother of five (yes, five ... at age 23 from two different men, neither of whom she was married to). 

Ms. Escalona was on trial for beating her two year old daughter almost to death last year.  The girl was beaten, whipped, and kicked until she was unconscious.  Ms. Escalona then super glued the child's hands to the wall (above a level where the girl could stand, so she was just dangling) and beat her some more.  The skin on the girl's hands finally tore away, and the girl fell to the floor.  When admitted to a hospital, the girl was in a coma.  Fortunately, the child survived, and is apparently doing as well as could be expected.

The child's offense for causing all of this?  She had trouble with potty training.

Ms. Escalona was offered a plea deal for 45 years in prison, but she refused.  She did plead guilty to the charge, so the trial was really about punishment.  She and her lawyer chose to have the judge decide the matter, rather than before a jury.  The prosecutor was asking for life in prison - the defense was asking for probation.

Ms. Escalona has been in trouble all of her life.  Gang membership, drugs, assault (including an attack on her mother), not to mention five pregnancies before she was 21 years old.

Her defense was that she was unprepared for motherhood (and had 5 kids???), had been sexually and physically abused as a child, had been pyhsically abused by the two men who fathered her children, and the pressure of trying to bring up five kids made her snap.  Ms. Escalona's mother (who is raising the five kids now) took the stand, and begged for mercy for her child, saying she needed help, not prison.  Ms. Escalona testified in her own defense, and pretty much agreed with the prosecutor that what she did was monsterous.  There were a lot of tears shed on the stand, but the only ones who know if they were real are Ms. Escalona, and God.

The judge returned a punishment of 99 years in prison, with a minimum of 30 before the possibility of parole.  The defense stated they would appeal.  The judge in the case, District Judge Larry Mitchell, has been on the bench for 40 years, and is highly thought of.

I am conflicted on this.  My gut response is good ... she got what she deserved for the heinous crime she committed.  Then, you think of the worse crimes committed all the time that get much lesser sentences.  People commit murder and get much lighter sentences.  The local woman who cut off her infant's arms a few years ago spent two years in mental treatment and was released to walk free for the rest of her life.  She had just 'snapped'. 

I also have a problem with the prosecutor.  During Ms. Escalona's testimony, the prosecutor displayed a handwritten slide on the wall behind the defendant, alternating between 'Monster' and 'LIAR' in very large print for all in the courtroom (except the defendant) to see.  I would think that would violate the defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial.  If this had been a jury trial, I would expect the defense to appeal on that basis.  Since it was just the judge, I'm not sure it will be an issue.  I'm still troubled by it.

A very troubling case.  I do think the kids will be better off not having this woman in their lives, although having grandma bring them all up will be a burden for all involved.  I think there is a very good chance that this will result in five more very troubled kids on the street, who likely will end up in trouble with the law (if not worse).   I am certainly glad I was not in Judge Mitchell's position.

You know what else troubles me about this?  She got all that prison time for beating her 2 year old child.  If she had killed the child at any point prior to it being born, she wouldn't have been charged with anything.  Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me ...

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