Posted September 30, 2013, by Edmund R. Folsom.
There’s controversy swirling in Augusta over the recent jailing of a witness in a domestic violence case, by use (some are arguing misuse) of Maine’s material witness statute. The case raises issues over Kennebec County D.A. Meaghan Maloney’s balancing of concerns. It also demonstrates the limited role that alleged crime victims have in choosing whether to “press charges,” at least in the realm of male/female domestic violence cases. Often, alleged female victims of domestic violence need to be disabused of the idea that the criminal justice system allows them to control whether charges will be “pressed” or not. In the Augusta case, Jessica Ruiz was arrested on a material witness warrant and held in jail for 17 hours because Ruiz made the D.A. insecure that she might make herself absent when the time came for the State to use her as a witness against her alleged attacker, Robert Robinson, Jr. Some have argued that because the State found a way to arrest Ruiz and throw her in jail, they probably could have found a way to simply serve her with a subpoena instead.
For those alleged victims of domestic violence who think they have control over whether their case should be prosecuted or not, this illustrates that, not only is it not their call, but they should take care not to make the D.A. insecure about their unwillingness to cooperate, lest they themselves should end up in jail. D.A. Maloney says Robinson is a particularly bad guy and that, as much as she regrets the necessity of throwing Robinson’s alleged victim in jail, she’d rather do that than see Ruiz end up dead at Robinson’s hands. In other words, Maloney hated to do it, but she had to throw Ruiz in jail for her own good.
WAS JAILING ALLEGED VICTIM AS MATERIAL WITNESS NECESSARY? A GOOD IDEA?