Friday, March 26, 2010
Advocates for abused women reacted with outrage Thursday after learning that a Baltimore County judge had enabled a 29-year-old man to be found not guilty of assault when he officiated at the marriage of the defendant and the woman he was accused of beating.
Another judge who waived the required 48-hour waiting period between the issuance of the marriage license and the wedding ceremony did not know the circumstances, according to that judge and a court official.
"It's appalling," said Lisae C. Jordan, general counsel for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "We know to anticipate that behavior from batterers, but to have the judiciary involved in assisting a batterer is just appalling."
Frederick D. Wood had been charged with second-degree assault after his fiancee claimed that on Nov. 29 he hit her in the face, bloodied her nose, kicked her and banged her head against a wall at his home in Middle River.
But when the domestic violence case against him came up for trial on March 10, District Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. allowed Wood to leave his courtroom in Essex to obtain a marriage license. Before the day was over, Russell married Wood and his fiancee in his chambers. The woman then invoked marital privilege so that she would not be required to testify against her husband, and Russell found Wood not guilty.
"Here's somebody who is clearly injured. And the authority figure, rather than acting neutrally or doing something to help protect her, pushed her into more entanglement with the alleged batterer," said Dorothy Lennig, longtime director of the legal clinic at the House of Ruth, which helps battered women and their children.
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