Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Equal Justice Under the Law

Above every judge's head in Orange County, one is reminded that "Equal Justice Under the Law" is what the judicial system strives to provide.

Everyone should expect to be treated fairly, whether they're a victim, defendant, witness, or any one of a number of other players that step into a courtroom on any given day.

CourtWatch monitored a case the past two days wherein one inmate was accused of sexually assaulting another inmate in the Orange County jail on December 8, 2008. 

The defendant, Josh Bailey (left), is currently 20 years old and is on track to spend a significant amount of his life behind bars.

The victim, Tori Tyrelle (right), is currently 39 years old and has accumulated over a dozen felony convictions. The victim was diagnosed at age 12 with gender identity disorder and has undergone several surgeries to be reassigned from male to female, including removal of the testicles and augmentation of the breasts.

The victim alleged that after spending 3 days in a 2-person cell with the defendant, he battered her and sexually assaulted her both orally and anally. At the time, he denied any sexual contact with the victim, but the DNA evidence confirmed the presence of his semen anally. There were also several large, fresh bruises noted by the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner a few hours after the incident.

Once Corrections Officers were apprised of the situation, the victim told the defendant that she was HIV positive, and one of Bailey's first requests after allegations were made was to be tested.  Bailey subsequently admitted to consensual contact the previous day and claimed he initially lied because he was ashamed.

Assistant State's Attorney Ryan Vescio treated everyone in the courtroom with respect and dignity. It was evident that Ms. Tyrelle deserved his best effort as a prosecutor.

The same could be said of Judge A. Thomas Mihok as he presided over the case.

However, Defense Counsel Tim Hartung's disdain for the victim was clearly evident. Judge Mihok once admonished him to stop laughing (a mocking sort of laugh) when cross-examining the victim. Mr. Hartung had trouble referring to the victim as a female throughout the entire trial, frequently saying "he or she" "Mr or Ms - whatever." A cynical smile was frequently pasted to his face and his rolling eyes were observed on several occasions as he walked back to his table while his back was turned to the judge and jury.

The defense contended that Ms. Tyrelle concocted a scheme to make $100,000 at the expense of the Orange County taxpayers by seducing his client and then alleging rape. Ms. Tyrelle is suing Orange County for alleged inadequacies in how transgendered inmates are taken care of at the jail (including, but not limited to this incident), although I have been unable to locate the case on the Orange County Clerk of Courts website.

In his closing argument, Mr. Hartung questioned how the victim managed to pay for all her surgeries thus far. Mr. Vescio, unfortunately, did not elicit any testimony from her on that matter (though I subsequently learned that she financed them herself). Mr. Vescio emphasized that in spite of the victim's crass language and alternative lifestyle, no one deserves to be a victim of sexual assault.

And that everyone should expect equal justice under the law.

4/21/10: The jury came back with a guilty verdict on one count of sexual battery w/physical force and a special finding of penetration.  Defendant is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, 4/23 at 9:00am in Courtroom 18D. The sentencing range is 137 months to LIFE.

1 comment:

  1. Rule 4-8.4 of the Rules Regulating the Flolrida Bar says, "A lawyer shall not engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage, humiliate, or discriminate against litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, or other lawyers on any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment, or physical characteristic;