April 27, 2010
Rachel Dissell with Leila Atassi
Cuyahoga County Juvenile Judge Alison Floyd has backed away from a court order forcing juvenile victims in several sexual assault cases to take polygraph examinations.
Floyd had ordered three juveniles to take the exams earlier this year after she found the teen boys accused of attacking them delinquent -- the juvenile court equivalent of guilty.
Victims, sexual assault advocates and prosecutors all objected. None of the victims complied with the order to take the tests.
In a brief filed in one of the cases, prosecutors accused Floyd of trying to "re-investigate the case."
Floyd admitted in a recent journal entry that she has "limited jurisdiction over a victim or witness" and that she had no authority over the victim after she made the decision to find the accused youth delinquent.
The judge explained in the same entry that she had ordered the polygraphs of the victim and her attacker after considering the "significant discrepancy" in the stories both youths told. Floyd said she wanted to "verify his truthfulness to determine an appropriate treatment services and an appropriate victim and community safety plan."
Floyd has not commented publicly on the orders or fully explained her rationale.
But her actions drew outrage from victim advocates and activists across the country, as national news sources, feminist blogs and women's rights websites carried the story.
Ms. Magazine, a political feminist publication, spotlighted the issue in its online blog, arguing that forcing victims to take a polygraph test violates the federal Violence Against Women Act and might violate Ohio's rape shield law, which is intended to prevent courts from trying the victim rather than the defendant. The magazine called feminists to action and encouraged readers to contact the judge and express their dissent.
Last week, Floyd's bailiff, Greg Moore, said the judge has received feedback from across the country about her decision.
He said she might discuss her rationale once all the cases are completed.
In one of the cases, Floyd has dismissed rape charges against a 13-year-old Lakewood boy who she had earlier found delinquent.
In an entry filed earlier this month in the case, the judge wrote that both the accused youth and the victim, who was also 13, "lacked adequate knowledge regarding legal and illegal sexual behavior."
She also questioned how and when the victim chose to report the crime as factors in her decision.Prosecutors plan to appeal the decision, according to Ryan Miday, spokesman for Prosecutor Bill Mason.
"We are confused about why polygraph tests were issued in the first place and why charges were dismissed in one case," said Megan O'Bryan, CEO & President of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, which has been working with some of the teen victims.
"We are very concerned that these actions will discourage other rape survivors from coming forward," she added. "All survivors should feel believed and supported at all stages of the criminal justice process, but especially after their perpetrator is found guilty or adjudicated."