MCM responded to our request for cases where the absence of recordings negatively affected her family. This is her response:
Yes, I agree we need to have all court hearings recorded and transcribed.
This has affected my case dramatically. The Broward judge in my case ordered me to give up my rights to trial and take a case plan, April 2014. This was the third hearing attempt at trial since one of my daughters was removed from my home late in 2013. The State wasn’t prepared nor did they have a case on any of these dates leading up to that 2014 hearing.
We went in and out of the courtroom 3 times that day, per the judge’s several requests to resolve the matter without a trial. Afterwards, my attorney found out that only the first and third proceedings that day were recorded; the second hearing, crucial to my case, was mysteriously not recorded.
The first time we were in the courtroom, the judge was calm in demeanor. When my attorney announced that we wanted to proceed with trial even though the State again wasn’t prepared, he asked us to go outside and discuss a solution. (this was recorded)
When we returned the second time and the judge asked did we come to a resolution, my attorney didn’t want to speak but reluctantly said we wanted to proceed with trial.
Then the judge stood up in a firm towering stance and ordered the court to “Stop” what we were doing. He told me in a firm voice pointing his finger at me, saying there would be no trial and stated that this was an order. I responded by asking him to please give me that in writing and he stated most definitely. (this was not recorded)
The third time back into the courtroom after deliberating over the wording of the consent documents, the judge was calm and started the consent proceedings.
During this third appearance my voice was extremely distressed, and when the judge asked me if I agreed, I stated per his request, then he went on to babble about it needing to be my decision and not that anyone should have said anything to change my mind.
When it came time for the question to consent I said, “no” I wasn’t going to consent, and the judge stated he would change the word to concede, again under duress and my voice sounding EXTREMELY STRAINED. I mumbled a faint yes in fear of losing my other three children. The judge even went so far as to say had I gone to trial he would have found for the State anyway and then removed all of my children. (Even though 3 of them were not a part of these proceedings.) (this was recorded)
My attorney, shortly after, filed a motion to vacate consent due to the coercion and duress. This motion stated that not only did it happen in the courtroom but outside as well. The investigator who had removed my children in late 2013 appeared outside the courtroom between the 1st and 2nd court proceedings that April 2014 day. She pulled me to the side, away from my attorney and all my witnesses, and told me that the judge had asked her to speak to me. This conversation was pretty much as I understood it a threat that if I didn’t consent, the judge would order to take all of my children from me or a phone call could be made and my 3 children that were still with me would be in jeopardy. However, even after those threats, we went back in that for the second proceeding that day, which was not recorded, and we didn’t give into consent, the judge then began to show his frustration by ordering that court to, “Stop” and for me to give up my rights to trial.
Later in other proceedings; my attorney was provided the recordings, to find out that the second proceedings of that April 2014 day weren’t recorded–it wasn’t on the documents nor recordings, nor was it provided to us in transcript. My attorney and I yet again attempted to proceed.
When we went to court for the judge to hear my vacate of consent, he threatened again that he would review the recordings and if he didn’t find that I had viable reasoning, he would give me and my attorney a hefty fine. This ultimately intimated my attorney and she shut down.
So the next hearing where we were to listen to the recordings and bring the witnesses that were in the court room from that day, I had agreed to let my attorney go because she was in fear of retaliation and didn’t want to proceed.
This motion to vacate consent was never heard. My new attorney didn’t want to move forward on it either, because he said he had to work with these people.
Ultimately, if my recordings were properly handled and provided to us without fear of retaliation, my daughter would have been home.
Let me say, after that hearing there have been numerous times where the judge hasn’t even put on the necessary recording light, all this while he has taken liberties to say derogatory things to me in the courtroom, make unprofessional remarks, side solely with the State after clear evidence otherwise, even go against his own orders, and the list goes on.
This must stop!!
We must unite and see to it that no one else receives this type of maltreatment and heinous breach of individual civil rights.