Water cooler discussions of the week

Two court cases received lots of commentary this week and were subject to public discussion at every water cooler. 

The first involved J.V., now demoted to Brigadier, a female government employee working at the island’s correctional institute who while driving under the influence of alcohol, with kids in the car whose windows were tinted black, and the phone ringing, caused a fatal accident, leading to the death of the late Zinnia Croes, 12.

The courage and determination of the Croes family has to be commended. While the investigators did their best to protect their own, botch the evidence and the accident report and basically sweep this case under the rug, the family fought for three years, to bring the case to court.

A very unusual and courageous move for Aruba, not everyone has the emotional and mental resources, and the steel-will to oppose the authority and take the system on, successfully.

By having their day in court, they proved the system works, but THEY had to work it. It didn’t work on its own.

The take-away: We must stay involved and hold our leaders accountable. When left to its own devices, the system is sometimes prone to failure.  

The case is not over yet, sentencing on July 5th.

The second case of the late Rishandroh and Eugene, the kids who are no longer with us, the 15 years requested by the prosecutor for father G.M. and the 4 years for mother R.F. were deemed too lenient in the court of public opinion.

I had to call my Legal Advisor to help me understand some of the complexities of this brutal tragedy.

She is a battered woman, said my legal eagle, very young and suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome, BWS, a recognized mental disorder that develops in victims of domestic violence as a result of serious, long-term abuse, and it leads to chronic “helplessness,” where a victim is so depressed, defeated and passive that she sees no way out, and she believes she is incapable of leaving the abusive situation.  

R.F. was repeatedly beaten for a long time, even when pregnant, then the kids from her first relationship came to live with her in August and things escalated fast. One boy gone in September, the other in November, she could not figure her way out of the situation, hence the perceived lenient request by the prosecutor. She will require treatment and will be restricted from seeing her tormentor for three years, which might help her shake his influence.

I know it is difficult to believe that all the bruises and burns on the kids did not spur her to action.  

As for G.M. who is mentally unstable, his actions were not pre-meditated, he just flipped. After sentencing if he gets 15 year, he will be out after 10 for good behavior, but then the *TBS decision comes into play he will be under permanent State supervision, he will not be a free man, probably committed to an institution and medicated, until the State determines he is no longer a menace to society. So, a 15-year sentence tied to TBS is in fact longer. Under TBS specialists will have to look at him every two years and evaluate his mental stability before sending him out into the world.

My legal eagle also noted that it all depends on the offender, if he/she collaborates, takes his/her meds, and welcomes help. In general, according to her 20% of those release from TBS will go ahead and reoffend.

*Terbeschikkingstelling (TBS) is a provision in the Dutch criminal code that allows for a period of treatment following a prison sentence for mentally disordered offenders.

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June 18, 2018
Rona Coster