CASTLE ROCK, WA — In a domestic violence case, a judge made an unexpected decision to jail the victims, while the accused abuser was released. The innocent family was shackled and chained until they agreed to testify against their family member.
In an incident back in April, Joel Darvell, 36, allegedly choked his wife while drunk, causing his son to tackle him and stop the assault. Darvell allegedly pistol-whipped his son and then fired a .45 caliber round into the wall of their home. No injuries were sustained. Darvell was charged with assault and assault with a firearm.
Prosecutors moved forward with a trial, but Darvell’s wife and children — a 17-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter — all refused to testify.
Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Michael Evans did not respect their decision to remain silent. All 3 alleged victims were dragged away by deputies after the judge held them in contempt of court.
In some kind of irony, while Joel Darvell was released on bail, his family was arrested and put in jail.
Both minors were taken to a juvenile detention center, where they were held in cuffs and shackles. They were separated from their mother and treated like criminals.
Their reason for refusing was unclear at first, but John Hays, who is representing Darvell’s wife, offered some insight.
“This has been extraordinarily hard on the mother and the two children,” Hays said to TDN.com. “The prosecutor wants to put the defendant in prison for over 20 years, and (his family members) really do not want that.”
Typically spouses are usually protected from having to testify against each other, but Hays said that an exception is made when one of their children is a crime victim.
After 48 hours of imprisonment, the 13-year-old girl was brought into court wearing shackles around her ankles, handcuffs, and sweats issued at the detention center. The judge had broken her will and she agreed to testify against her father.
The son and mother were treated in the same humiliating manner and were made to agree — under duress — to testify as well. The judge warned them that if they changed their minds he would jail them again.
“To have two minors put into custody is a pretty drastic way to try and resolve the situation,” said attorney Kevin Blondin, who is representing Darvell’s son, adding that he’s never seen a judge throw victims jail for refusing to testify.
Darvell could face 20 years in prison for the drunken incident. His trial is scheduled for this week.
The bullying of family members into testifying is really shameful behavior coming from a judge. Witnesses should always have a right to remain silent. Testimony should never be coerced under threat of imprisonment.
Judge Michael Evans. of Cowlitz County, WA, is responsible for the heavy-handed treatment of these victims.