J.D.S.' Accused Rapist Goes Free; Judge Says Strong Is Not Competent
To Stand Trial
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 20, 2004
ORLANDO, FLORIDA--An Orange County Circuit Judge said Monday that the woman known as J.D.S. will likely never have justice, as he sent her accused rapist home without a trial.
Judge C. Alan Lawson said Phillip Strong, 76, has degenerative dementia and memory loss and will probably never be competent enough to stand trial for allegedly raping and impregnating the 23-year-old woman.
J.D.S., who has cerebral palsy, autism and mental retardation, gave birth to a baby girl last August. Authorities had learned of her pregnancy in April, several months after she was raped in the group home operated by Strong's wife, Hester. When tests later matched Strong's DNA with that of the infant, police charged him with sexual battery of a "physically helpless" person and sexual battery of a "mentally defective" person. Each is a first-degree felony that carries a 30-year-prison sentence.
Several doctors convinced Judge Lawson that Strong's dementia -- which cannot be improved through treatment -- would make it impossible for him to understand the charges he faces or the court proceedings.
"This result is far from just for the victim, her family and a community which rightly desires that an accused stand trial for crimes as atrocious as those alleged in this case," Lawson wrote in his ruling. "This is one of those rare cases in which competing principles of justice clash irreconcilably. And, as a result, justice cannot legally be done for all."
Hester Strong has been charged with felony negligence and is awaiting trial. Her group home license was revoked when J.D.S.' pregnancy was revealed.
J.D.S.' family has sued the couple, along with a Florida Department of Children & Families employee, for violating her rights.
J.D.S.' situation became national news last June when Governor Jeb Bush attempted to have a guardian appointed for the fetus to prevent it from being aborted. His efforts were rejected by the courts because state law does not recognize a fetus as a person, regardless of the mother's disability status.
The guardian appointed to J.D.S. recommended that she give birth rather than have an abortion. J.D.S.' parental rights were terminated immediately after the healthy girl was born.
J.D.S. now lives in another state-licensed facility. Her daughter lives with foster parents.