It turns out I wasn’t the only one perplexed by a Court of Queen’s Bench Judge’s decision to acquit an offender in a horrific domestic violence case.
Several Police Insider readers joined me expressing outrage and disgust.
If you missed the story I’ll recap…..
On October 21, 2009, twenty-four (24) year old offender Jared Smoke punched and kicked his twenty-two (22) year old girlfriend into submission before making the conscious decision to drag her to a bedroom so he could retrieve a sawed off bolt-action Ruger rifle from a dresser drawer.
Once he armed himself with the deadly firearm, he pointed it at her head and pulled the trigger. As the shot was fired, the victim managed to raise her arm in front of her face to defend herself. The bullet struck her forearm and deflected into her face.
The medical report noted massive destruction to the victim’s right forearm, significant soft tissue defect, major nerve damage to the muscles supplying the forearm & hand and arterial injury. The bullet glanced off her right cheek and deflected into the right side of her right skull causing a scalp wound and fractures to the cheek and skull.
(There is no question, the woman is extremely lucky to have survived the attack.)
A number of witnesses were present at the time of the shooting as were the victim’s two (2) year old and infant child.
After the shooting Smoke and the other guests fled from the suite leaving the victim in a pool of blood with the infant in a bed and the two-year old wandering about the residence.
On Thursday, March 13, 2014, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Martin acquitted Smoke of attempt murder and convicted him of the lesser charge of aggravated assault.
In acquitting Smoke, Martin said, “Smoke meant to use the gun in the assault, and in doing so he discharged the gun but without specifically meaning to kill her.”
I question the logic.
I also question the message the decision sends to educators and people who advocate for victim’s of domestic violence and abuse.
What message does the decision send to the Police Officers and Paramedics who attended the scene and experienced the results of Mr Smoke’s handiwork in a profoundly intimate way?
Sanitized versions of the events presented in a court room and main stream media never capture the true impact of this type of horrific violence. Those realities are reserved for front line Police Officers and members of the First Responder Community.
The call came in as a “check the well-being call” for an incoherent screaming woman who called 911. A young child could be heard in the background calling “Mommy, mommy.”
When the first Police Unit arrived on scene they found the victim sitting near the bedroom door in an immense pool of expanding blood. Her arm had been essentially severed mid forearm and was hanging at a 90 degree angle to the rest of her shattered limb. The two pieces were connected by a slim, stretched thread of skin.
The woman’s ulna and radius bones were both snapped and protruding from her arm. As if that wasn’t horrific enough, her scalp had been split wide open causing a horrendous gaping wound.
As she sat in shock, the woman held her broken limb towards a Police Officer and begged him to put it back together for her. The Officer immediately recognized the gravity of the situation. The woman was in shock and her life was clearly at risk. The situation called for immediate action. The Officer didn’t hesitate and supported the shattered limb while applying a dressing to the head wound to slow the bleeding. Amid the chaos, the calming voice of a veteran female Officer could be heard offering comfort and reassurance to the victim.
As they worked on the hysterical woman the Officers realized the infant child was fast asleep in the bedroom and was completely oblivious to the carnage. The peaceful look on the sleeping child’s face presented a stark contradiction of colliding realities. The two (2) year old was not so fortunate and needed to be consoled by other Officers at the scene.
Scenes like this can be emotionally traumatizing for everyone exposed to them. The victim, the children, Police, Paramedics and First Responders. These kind of horrific injuries are more likely to be witnessed by Soldiers on battlefields in war zones like Afghanistan or Iraq. The Military is light years ahead of Law Enforcement agencies who are only starting to become more alert to the needs of Police Officers who may suffer emotional injury or PTSD by virtue of their exposure to these types of graphic incidents.
I heard the Police Officers who handled the scene were shocked to learn Doctors successfully reattached the woman’s arm. They were even more shocked when she refused to cooperate with the prosecution in this case.
“It’s incomprehensible how someone could inflict this kind of trauma to anyone, never mind someone they apparently cared about at one time, and all this in front of children no less,” one Officer remarked.
“It’s mind-boggling how someone who has physically suffered as much as this woman did can turn around and try to protect the offender. Domestic violence is an incredibly complicated dynamic that defies logic. This is the kind of thing that officers see regularly, and continue to see. That’s why it’s described as a cycle, and will always present unique challenges to Police and Prosecutors,” the Officer added.
The Officer went on to commend the efforts of the Crown Prosecutors who worked the case.
It’s true, domestic violence is a complex issue.
Why does she stay?
Why does she protect the abuser?
Why does she refuse to testify?
It’s clear, these questions continue to confuse and frustrate Police Officers.
(Watch the fifteen (15) minute video at the end of this story for the answer to these troubling questions.)
Ultimately, we all have a duty and responsibility to do our part to denounce and eradicate domestic violence. That duty and responsibility starts with all of us and extends to the Police, Prosecutors, Social Agencies and yes, the Judiciary.
Abominations like the Smoke decision are an impediment to the evolution of criminal and social justice.
When Jared Smoke pulled that trigger he was not firing a warning shot!
The warning shot was fired by Justice Chris Martin when he acquitted Smoke of attempt murder.
It seems that we should all be afraid.
WHY DOES SHE STAY?