Monday, March 23, 2020

People v. Mitchell (Cal. Ct. App. - March 23, 2020)

I generally like learning new things.  But I was horrified today to learn a new term.  No thanks at all go out to Justice Fields and this opinion from this afternoon.

The new term is "degloved" -- a word that I had never heard until today.  As in this sentence from the opinion, a case involving child abuse:

"John Doe 1’s penis had been degloved . . . ."

Lest there be any doubt, Justice Fields drops a footnote right after the term to explain what it means:

"The treating physician described 'degloving' as like skinning the body part and specifically noted that with John Doe 1, it was possible to simply lift the loose skin, open it like a book and view the erectile chambers of his penis, spermatic cord, and blood vessels."

Oh my.  Oh my, oh my, oh my.

I'm not even sure how that can happen.  I'm not even sure how that happens even after reading the opinion.  What can you possibly do to someone to inflict that sort of injury?

Sure, it's a case where the defendant gets convicted of torture.  It's a five- or six-year old child, after all.  So you can imagine a demonic, movie-type sadist with all sorts of implements and the like doing this to a child, at least in theory.  Go ahead and picture the person and the relevant tools.

Did you picture a 70-year old grandmother?  Because that's who the defendant is in this case.  (I'm not actually sure of her exact age; the opinion merely refers to her "advanced age and poor health" and the fact that she's receiving social security and well as retirement benefits.  Still, she's old.)

Two brief additional thoughts.  First, the testimony of the children here is not exactly helpful.  It's certainly incriminating.  But, as I said, for the life of me, I'm not sure how this injury happens.  The child at one point in an interview referred to "a tool that he described as something that 'closed' and 'opened'; was kept in a drawer; and used on green trees."  But I still don't know what that could be.  And then, at trial, the child denies that there was a tool, and then says he can't remember.  So I'm left totally in the dark as to how the underlying events actually transpired.

Second, relatedly, I wanted more details, so I tried to find press reports about the whole thing.  But I can't find any.  At all.  Not by the defendant's name.  Not by the injuries.  Nothing.  Which is unusual, particularly given that the case went to trial and involves highly disturbing facts.  Weird.

Anyway.  There are a lot of things to fear these days.  We can now officially add "degloving" to that list.