Note: this article contains graphic language.
In 1985, three men in South Carolina viciously raped and attacked a woman at a motel. In this week's episode of Criminal, Phoebe Judge tells us about a judge who proposed a punishment he thought would fit the crime better than jail time. Criminal is a podcast recorded at WUNC and hosted by Phoebe Judge.
The victim was 24-year-old Elizabeth Daniel of Anderson, S.C. She was meeting Roscoe Brown, the father of her child, at a motel. Brown wanted to avoid an obligation to pay child support and intended to break off the relationship. He and two other friends proceeded to get drunk and went to the motel to meet Daniel where they viciously raped and attacked her for five to six hours.
"She lost so much blood that they didn't actually know if she was going to survive," Judge said.
Anderson County Deputy Sheriff Carl Anderson said this was one of most gruesome attacks he ever witnessed.
"It's just a miracle that she survived because the injuries were horrible," he said.
It was clear a jury would find the three men guilty, so the defense attorneys worked on a plea bargain. But the Judge C. Victor Pyle offered an uncommon alternative: Either spend 30 years in prison (the maximum sentence at the time) or surgical castration.
“There was just dead silence in the courtroom for a moment when he handed that down, and I think a lot of people looked at each other wondering if they’d heard it right," prosecutor George Duckworth said.
Judge said there were mixed reactions from the public to this offer. Some said it was a good idea and the offenders deserved it, while others said this was not a sexual offense, but a violent and criminal offense and the offer was inappropriate.
The three men went to prison. Two of them got out quickly on parole, while the third offender has spent time in and out of prison for repeated rape offenses. Judge said this case opened the door for the public to start to think about castration as a legal sentence.
Since 1985, a number of states have implemented chemical castration, which includes hormonal manipulation as a possibility for repeat sex offenders. Meanwhile, a current bill in the Alabama state legislature would require surgical castration for any offender who is charged with crimes against a child under the age of 12. The offender would be forced to have surgical castration before they leave prison and they would also have to pay for the procedure.