This is one of the craziest things I have seen a Judge do in a long time. And I can say, after having been a prosecutor there, that this kind of stuff only happens in Broward County.
I saw the report on CNN HLN this morning, but NBC Miami has the video here. After Joseph Bray was arrested for domestic violence by Plantation Police, he was brought before Judge John “Jay” Hurley for his first appearance. Although bonds are normally entered at first appearance hearings, Judge Hurley deviated from the standard procedures and instead ordered Mr. Bray, in lieu of bond, to buy his wife, Sonja, a card, followed by dinner at Red Lobster and bowling. Judge Hurley thought the order was appropriate because the domestic violence arrest stemmed from the fact that Mr. Bray forgot to wish Sonja a happy birthday, Mr. Bray’s apparent lack of criminal history, and because Sonja, who is heard on tape, said she wanted Mr. Bray to come home.
I am really torn about this. On the one hand, sometimes Judges need to be free to craft sentences or orders to fit the circumstances of criminal cases. And the criminal defense lawyer in me believes that people charged with a crime should not be punished unnecessarily, especially if there are mitigating circumstances. On the other hand, as a woman, I find it unsettling that a Judge would laugh off the whole incident, and think that dinner and bowling would fix this. Ok, I know that the Judge did mention counseling on the tape also, but come on. Can a card, dinner and bowling really make up for the fact that the man’s hands were wrapped around his wife’s neck? Instead of getting cute, I tend to think that the Judge should have just ordered Mr. Bray to post bond like everyone else.