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Judge Appoints Guardian To Rape Victim
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 3, 2003

ORLANDO, FLORIDA--A judge has declared a 22-year-old rape victim legally incompetent, and appointed a legal guardian to protect her rights and interests.

But the judge turned down the state's request to appoint a guardian for the woman's fetus, which is in it's sixth month of development.

Circuit Judge Lawrence Kirkwood declared on Monday that the woman -- who has autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and epilepsy -- is not able to make decisions for herself. He also criticized the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF) for failing to take the woman, who is identified only as "J.D.S.", through the guardianship process after she turned 18.

Kirkwood then appointed Patti Jarrell to be guardian, explaining that she has 12 years of experience in the health care field.

Jarrell said she has no personal agenda regarding the abortion issue, and will support the wishes J.D.S.

Kirkwood also denied a request from DCF to appoint a guardian for the fetus.

Governor Jeb Bush and DCF chief Jerry Regier, both of whom oppose abortion, had ordered the department to ask the court to intervene on the fetus' behalf.

"An unborn child would normally have his or her rights defended by her mom," Bush said Monday. "In this case, the mom needs a guardian herself."

Judge Kirkwood turned down the DCF request, explaining that state law does not allow a guardian to be appointed for a fetus, because a fetus is not legally considered a person.

"A trial judge must follow the law as written," Kirkwood said in court. "Many had expected this court to blaze new territory and write new law for the facts beyond the Florida statute."

J.D.S. has lived in state-funded facilities since the age of 3. She was considered to "have the mental capacity of an infant", according to her court-appointed attorney, Rod Taylor. But since her medications were recently cut back, and she moved to a different home, she now "functions like a 4-or-5-year-old", Taylor explained.

Taylor said she is not aware that she is pregnant.

She was raped while living in an Orlando group home. Judge Kirkwood requested that Jarrell allow officials to take DNA samples from the fetus or the newborn to help law enforcement identify the rapist.

Related articles
"Judge rules rape victim incapacitated, criticizes DCF" (Associate Press via Sun-Sentinel)

"Orlando judge again nixes guardian for fetus" (Associated Press via Florida Times-Union)

"Factors combine to complicate woman's rights" (Iowa State Daily)


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