A judge in Michigan scolded the victims of a crime after their 3-year-old daughter was scared of black men as a result of the crime.
A young 3-year-old girl was severely traumatized after an incident in 2013:
Jordan and Tommy Gray’s 3-year-old daughter was watching “SpongeBob” when two armed men broke into their home near Buechel on March 21, 2013, and robbed them at gunpoint.
Two years later, when one of the offenders was about to be sentenced, Jordan wrote in a victim impact statement that her daughter was still “in constant fear of black men.” Both robbers were African-American.
“Whenever we are running errands, if we come across a black male, she holds me tight and begs me to leave,” the mother said. “It has affected her friendships at school and our relationships with African-American friends.”
Tommy Gray also wrote that since the crime, his daughter had been terrified of black males and that probation was not sufficient punishment for Gregory Wallace, 27, who had pleaded guilty to robbery.
But when the sentencing occurred, the judge went after the victims:
“This little girl certainly has been victimized, and she can’t help the way she feels,” he said. “My exception is more with her parents and their accepting that kind of mentality and fostering those type of stereotypes.”
The Grays were not in court as Stevens denounced their statements and granted probation to Wallace, whom he said deserved the opportunity to redeem himself.
But they did see when Stevens condemned their statements again, in a post on Facebook.
“Do three year olds form such generalized, stereotyped and racist opinions of others?” he wrote. “I think not. Perhaps the mother had attributed her own views to her child as a manner of sanitizing them.”
Stevens, who was appointed to the bench in 2009 and re-elected last year without opposition, did not mention the Grays or Wallace by name on Facebook. He noted in court and in his post that “the statement played absolutely no role in the sentencing decision.”
The Courier-Journal mentioned some responses to the judge’s comments:
Jeffrey Shaman, who teaches at Chicago’s DePaul University law school and once ran the Center for Judicial Conduct Organizations, said judicial criticism of victim impact statements could discourage victims from “participating in the criminal justice system and ensuring that their voices will be heard.”
Indiana University law professor Charles Geyh said that while it is not intrinsically wrong for a judge to criticize a victim — such as the instigator of a bar fight — given Stevens’ emotional reaction in court and on Facebook, he arguably should have disqualified himself because his impartiality might be questioned.