A Newburyport District Court judge yesterday found Miranda Drew guilty of kidnapping her own daughter and bringing her to New Mexico to shield her from allegedly being sexually abused by her father, according to the Boston Globe.
Drew, 30, was given a suspended jail sentence by the judge, which means she will be on probation for the next two years. If she successfully completes her probation, she will not have to serve time. If she violates her probation, she will be subject to serving one year in the House of Correction.
Drew claimed that her ex-husband was sexually abusing their daughter. The ex-husband completely denied all allegations of sexual abuse. According to Drew, she was forced to flee to New Mexico because “the system” was not protecting her daughter and the ex-husband was about to receive unsupervised visitation privileges. The daughter has disclosed several instances where she claims to have been sexually abused by her father, but a forensic trauma investigator concluded the allegations were not clear and consistent. As a result, after Drew was arrested for custodial kidnapping, her daughter was initially sent to live with her father. The Department of Children and Families later moved the daughter into foster care (after she repeated allegations of improper sexual conduct by her father) and she is now back living with Drew.
During her trial, Drew advanced a necessity defense. When a defendant asserts necessity, she is conceding that she committed the crime with which she is charged. However, she is arguing there was a compelling justification that permitted her to break the law. In Massachusetts, there are three elements to a necessity defense. First, the defendant faced an imminent and clear danger; second, the defendant reasonably expected her conduct would effectively and directly reduce or eliminate the danger; and third, there was not a legal alternative that would have effectively reduced or eliminated the danger. If a defendant produces some evidence of each element of necessity at trial, the Commonwealth bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not acting out of necessity. Necessity defenses are notoriously difficult to win, and for good reason. The judicial system has an interest in discouraging people from breaking the law because they believe an illegal act is a solution to a problem. In this case, the judge concluded the defendant was not entitled to an acquittal pursuant to a necessity defense because the defendant: (1) did not fear imminent danger to her daughter when she fled to New Mexico; and (2) had not pursued all of the legal avenues before she left.
The Globe article notes that Drew’s ex-husband was also suspected of sexually abusing his daughter from a previous relationship and had been charged (as a juvenile) with raping his sister. He denied that he has ever sexually assaulted anybody and the juvenile charges were eventually dismissed. Given the history of allegations against her ex-husband (in conjunction with the allegations made against him by her own daughter), Drew faced a difficult legal dilemma. Unfortunately for her, it was a dilemma that did not justify the commission of a crime.