by Erin Henk
The case of Clinton resident Yvette Cade, who was set on fire by her husband after a protective order against him was lifted despite her objections, has led some to question the integrity of a judicial system, which is supposed to protect victims of domestic violence.
‘‘I think a court should be happy to give victims of domestic violence every bit of protection they can instead of thinking they’re scamming the system,” said Dorothy Lennig, legal clinic director for House of Ruth, a domestic violence shelter based in Baltimore where Cade allegedly sought help.
Cade had requested a protective order be placed against her estranged husband Roger Hargrave in July, but it was later rescinded against her wishes on Sept. 19 by District Court Judge Richard A. Palumbo. Weeks later, Hargrave entered the T-Mobile store in Clinton where Cade worked, doused her with gasoline, and set her on fire. She is now hospitalized and going through several surgeries for her third-degree burns. Hargrave is being held in the Prince George’s County Detention Center without bail for an attempted murder charge.
Cade’s cousin Michael Haynesworth described Cade’s three-year marriage to Hargrave as ‘‘one of almost complete terror,” during which Cade tried to protect herself and her 12-year-old daughter.
Haynesworth said that after she left the courthouse that day in September, Cade may have had lost some faith in the system. ‘‘When she came to court in September, she was appalled,” said Haynesworth. ‘‘She felt like crap … like he just rolled her over. Just no regard.”
Since the incident at the T-Mobile store, Thurman Rhodes, the administrative judge for the court, has temporarily barred Palumbo from hearing domestic violence cases until early December.
The court hearing on Sept. 19 was supposed to have modified the protective order, not dismissed it, said Ron Snyder, spokesman for the Court Information Office for the Maryland Judiciary. Hargrave said he wanted him and Cade to go to counseling but Hargrave did not show up to court that day.
‘‘The petition for modification should have been dismissed, that day,” said Snyder. ‘‘There was a communication error between the judge and the clerk that led to [the protective order] being dismissed,” said Snyder. Palumbo reinstated the order on Oct. 17. It will be carried out until July, as was originally intended.
Haynesworth argues that even if it was an error, Palumbo should have taken responsibility for it.
‘‘When she stated that he was violating the protective order, (the judge) should have put out a warrant for his arrest,” said Haynesworth.
Palumbo has not commented on the case because he is prevented by the judicial code of conduct, said Snyder. According to Steve Lemmey of the Judicial Disability Committee, no public disciplinary actions have been taken against Palumbo.
‘‘I think it’s outrageous,” said Lennig. ‘‘There was clear and convincing evidence, and the abuser didn’t show up in court that day to argue that the order be rescinded.”
Lennig said that she’s never actually heard of a protective order being rescinded when the parties involved are still separated.
Cade’s family plans to take action.
‘‘We may file a complaint, but I want to see what kind of character [Palumbo] has. He knows this is out in the media … but he should be able to say, regardless of who’s responsible, ‘I’m sorry that this has happened,’” said Haynesworth. ‘‘We need to do something about how our judges are treating women in . … It’s greater than Judge Palumbo … and from what I’m hearing, it’s greater than the District Court.”
Cade’s family plans to send a direct letter to Palumbo’s supervisor Thurman Rhodes, letting him know that before they plan to file a grievance, they’d like a direct response from Palumbo. They also plan to eventually establish a foundation that will offer protection for battered women.
‘That’s the real tragedy of it all – that she wasn’t awarded the consideration she deserved,” said Denise McCain, executive director or the Family Crisis Center of Prince George’s County. McCain says that her crisis center often warns domestic violence victims that the demeanor of the court will not always be favorable towards them.
‘‘In some ways we’re going backwards, really,” she said.
She also said that domestic violence victims who go to court often run into obstacles if they are not completely prepared or they have a less than perfect record. However, in this case, said McCain, that did not seem to be an issue for Cade.
One positive thing, said McCain, is that this particular case may prompt domestic violence victims to seek the support of shelters and proper legal counsel ‘‘in order to get the attention they deserve,” she said.
E-mail Erin Henk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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