Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Taking a Bite Out of Crime

As I was working on the introductory chapter for my monograph On The Rate of Wrongful Conviction, I stumbled across a case I figured you might enjoy, particularly if you are Mike Tyson. I'll get straight to it.

In 1997, West Virginia Judge Joseph Troisi had just denied post-conviction bond reduction for William Witten. Witten had been convicted and sentenced on two felony counts of breaking and entering.

With the magic of Present Tense, I'll take you back to the events as they happened that day.

Witten is being led from the courtroom by a state trooper. Witten mutters something about the judge being a "fucking asshole."

Judge Troisi overhears the remark and orders the trooper to return Witten to the bench.

Troisi descends from the bench. He unzips his black robe and lets it drop to the courtroom floor.

Troisi gets in Witten's face and taunts him. It looks as if Troisi is trying to bait Witten into striking a judge.

Witten puts his hands in his pockets.

Witten: "You know I can't touch you."

Troisi: "When you get out of the penitentiary, you look me up."

Witten: "I'll make a point of it."

Troisi chest-bumps Witten twice and forces him backwards against the bench.

Troisi snaps his teeth near Witten's face.

On the second snap, Trosi bites a piece of flesh from Wittnen's nose.

Troisi spits the piece of Witten's nose onto the floor.

Witten just stands there as blood runs down his face.

The state trooper, who is apparently on a first name basis with the defendant, says: "Come on, Bill." He once begins to lead Witten from the courtroom.

Troisi: "Do something about your nose."

Troisi picks up his robe, puts it back on, returns to the bench, and calls for the next case.

For his assault, Troisi faced up to 10 years in jail and a fine of $250,000.  Even judicial immunity has its limits.

Troisi resigned from the bench, pled no contest to a charge of criminal battery, spent five days in jail for the assault, and was placed on probation. As part of his plea agreement, Troisi agreed to counseling for impulse control.

The counseling apparently didn't take. Soon after being released from jail, Troisi verbally assaulted a court clerk who had testified against him. Even though no body parts were consumed during that confrontation, ex-judge Joseph Troisi was returned to jail for six months for violating his probation.