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HomeNewsArchivesProtest Demanding Judge Kendall's Resignation Set for Monday

Protest Demanding Judge Kendall's Resignation Set for Monday

April 20, 2007 — Saying they have "had enough," community activists will stage a demonstration from noon to 1 p.m. Monday calling for the resignation of V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall.
"We want to take a stand and make it known that this type of behavior is totally unacceptable," said Maria Ferreras, a concerned citizen taking the lead on organizing the demonstration.
"We don't want violent perpetrators murdering our children," she said. "People are very aware right now. This judge's decisions are appalling. They have ripped the heart right out of the community."
Kendall released Daniel Castillo in March on his own recognizance, pending trial on domestic-violence charges. Castillo, who has a long criminal record of violence, stands accused of killing 12-year-old La'Quina Hennis while he was free awaiting trial.
Though police records show that he confessed to the murder, he pleaded not guilty Thursday in V.I. Superior Court to charges of first- and second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. He is being held on $1 million bail set by V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar, who will preside at his trial. While he was in court Thursday, the community said goodbye to the 12-year-old child. (See "Hundreds Turn Out to Celebrate the Life of La'Quina Hennis.")
Community members also challenge other decisions by Kendall. Since taking the bench in October 2003 without the endorsement of the V.I. Bar Association, he has made a number of decisions releasing convicted criminals to the streets. Kendall has maintained he is following the law. He has faced the ire of victims' advocate groups, who consider his decisions dangerous to the community.
In January, Kendall released Ashley Williams, a convicted rapist, to "get his affairs in order." Williams did not do that; he barricaded himself in his Contant home and threatened to blow up a large propane tank if police entered. His actions forced officers to storm the home and subdue Williams with a stun gun.
At Williams' sentencing, Kendall said he thought the minimum sentence he was forced to impose was too long. The judge also said members of the media and victims' rights advocates were more dangerous than the man who forcibly sodomized a homeless man with a wooden chair leg. (See "Judge Kendall Gives Rapist Minimum Sentence, Says Victim Was Lying.")
"People keep asking me what we can do," Ferreras said Friday. "People's hearts are broken."
Ferreras said she has spoken to the Family Resource Center and other advocacy groups. "They will join us Monday," she said. "Mary Mingus of the Women's Coalition on St. Croix is in full support, but she cannot be here Monday, because they have another event planned."
The demonstration will be quiet and peaceful, Ferreras stressed. "It will be a silent protest, with participants expressing their feelings on signs," she said. "We realize that this is Carnival Week, but people are very aware right now."
The group will meet in Emancipation Garden at noon, Ferreras said. "We will walk over to the Farrelly Justice Complex (which houses the V.I. Superior Court) and stand there in solidarity on this issue," she said. "It will be a respectful demonstration. We won't enter the courthouse. We won't disturb anybody. With the outrage in the community now, something must be done."
The territory has made provisions for a Commission on Judicial Disabilities to hear complaints about judges but it currently has no members, a local attorney said this week. Some activists have suggested trying to get Kendall reappointed to traffic court. He is under the judicial rather than executive branch of government, which would have to act on any decisions affecting a judge, the attorney noted.
"You can follow the letter of the law, but that's not the essence of the law," said concerned mother Lucina Bartlett, who will attend the demonstration. "No one has challenged him. Enough is enough, when you are constantly letting people go. I personally feel that his arrogance is unacceptable. If you keep making the same mistakes, you need to stop."
Sherma Henry, acting director of the Family Resource Center, said, "We are going to close the office between noon and 1 p.m. We are willing to close the office for an hour to participate."
Public pressure may encourage the governor to get involved, Henry said.
"We are very aware of (Kendall's) decisions," she said. "We stand on the grounds that something should be done. We are hoping that with the calls from the community, the governor will look into the situation, and see what can be done. It has to be everybody coming together, not sitting on the back burner."
Ferreras encouraged everybody to come Monday, protest sign or not. "If they don't have a sign, they can just come and stand with us," she said.
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