No one has contacted City Paper to defend Judge Teresa Carr Deni's 2007 decision to dismiss rape charges because the victim, who said she was forced to have sex at gunpoint by four men, was a prostitute who had previously agreed to have sex with two of the men. Many are still angry about the ruling, and a group is organizing on Facebook to encourage Philadelphians to vote "no" on retaining the judge.
But a lawyer did contact City Paper to say that, compared to other Philadelphia judges, Deni is not so bad—especially when it comes to questioning the veracity of police testimony.
"I think Judge Deni has exhibited a history of independence on the bench and does not simply believe police officers when they testify because they're police officers," says the Philadelphia lawyer, who requested anonymity. "She listens to all of the evidence and all of the witnesses in front of her, and she is one of the few judges who says she does not believe the police officers, and who will believe someone who is not in uniform."
That, says the lawyer, is all too rare in a city where "we see articles every single day about police officers lying. And it's a shame that more judges don't really seriously consider the credibility of the police officer on the witness stand."
City Paper contacted three other lawyers familiar with Deni; two agreed she was better than most.
"I generally break down judges into the upper half and lower half," says one. "I want to appear in front of the upper half and would prefer to not appear in front of the lower half. She's in the upper half."
Another said she was a mixed bag. Ironically, this attorney said, Deni is particularly severe with defendants charged with sex crimes.
In other news relating to the election this Tuesday that very, very few Philadelphians are expected to vote in: Common Pleas Court Judge Rayford Means, an attentive CP reader e-mailed, is up for a retention vote. Judge Means has attracted unflattering media attention at least twice in recent years. In 2005, Means provoked an uproar when he handed down a sentence of house arrest for a Penn professor accused of sexual assault, and cited the societal importance of his work on brain injury in justifying the light sentence.
In 2007, the Inquirer discovered that Judge Means was running illegal rooming houses in Southwest Philadelphia, and had not reported any rental income on his financial disclosure forms.
The Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania was, according to a 2009 article, looking into the allegations. But according to the state Court of Judicial Discipline, no charges were ever filed.
One neighbor told the paper that "there were hookers running in at all times of night. Crackheads smoking in the basement." She said she even called Judge Means' office. "'There's people in your house smoking crack. I want you to do something about it.' … How can you be a judge and let this happen?"
According to the organization Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, that is why we should appoint judges instead.
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