A judge ruled Tuesday that investigators can interview the 5-year-old daughter of a Hillsborough County judge accused of battering his wife, saying the child was a witness and her statement could be crucial.
Judge Eric Myers was arrested in January on a domestic violence charge involving his wife of five years, Shirley Sanchez-Myers. She says her husband beat her until she lost consciousness. He has admitted to striking his wife once and pulling her hair.
The only witnesses to the incident are Myers, his wife and the couple's young daughter.
That's why Pinellas County Judge Holly Grissinger agreed Tuesday to let State Attorney's Office investigators take the child's statement, overriding her mother's plea to quash a subpoena requesting the 5-year-old's interview.
"We feel she should be shielded from the process," said Howard Iken, an attorney representing Sanchez-Myers. "This child may be the instrument of the ruin of (Myers') career. And she will grow up, and she has to think about that."
Her mother told the judge Tuesday she did not want the 5-year-old involved.
"My daughter has not been sleeping," Sanchez-Myers said. "She's lost weight, she's going to therapy once a week. Once they interview my daughter, I'm left to fix this and work through this with her."
But Grissinger dismissed Sanchez-Myers pleas, saying the case has such limited evidence the child's statement could be significant.
"I seem to think that everyone is missing the very basic point," Grissinger said. "This is not a subpoena for deposition. This is an investigatory subpoena," which means the child won't be giving a statement in a courtroom for now, but rather talking to two state investigators.
As for any emotional toll on the girl, Grissenger said that's beside the point.
"For her to have any reason why she would even remotely believe that she is the reason for the 'ruin of his career' for simply telling the truth is disturbing," the judge said.
The case was moved to Pinellas County to keep proceedings unbiased. Myers, meanwhile, continues to hear criminal cases in Hillsborough County. Hillsborough Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta said Myers is entitled to due process and a presumption of innocence.
Downstairs in the Clearwater courthouse, the 5-year-old played with a paralegal as her mother pleaded to keep her out of the case. When Grissenger upheld the subpoena, she assured Sanchez-Myers her daughter was in good hands.
"I'm sure that it will not take long," she said. "(The investigators have) both been trained in how to interview children. It's not a horrific process."
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