Judge in Fairview custody case releases written statement

Date: 2010-04-05
Source: Enid News

Judge in Fairview custody case releases written statement
By Cindy Allen, Managing Editor
Enid News and Eagle


FAIRVIEW -- A district judge under fire for his ruling last week that four Liberian-born girls would remain with a couple who were convicted of abusing their sister has spoken out Monday in a written statement.

Major County Judge Vinson Barefoot released a written statement Monday morning through his wife, Ahna, saying he has been inundated with “questions, oddly construed versions of my comments, incorrect assumptions about my attitudes and thinking, and erroneous conclusions about the factors involved in determining my decision in regard to four children in this case.”

Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Major County District Attorney Hollis Thorp filed an emergency review of the decision on Friday. Barefoot had ruled the children would remain with Ardee and Penny Tyler, who were convicted of child abuse and given 10-year suspended prison terms.

In his statement, Barefoot said he welcomes the review “because any judge in this position should never perceive himself as possessing all insight or wisdom, but rather doing his best to make a decision under current laws and the evidence presented.”

Authorities say the Tylers tied the second-oldest child, a 13-year-old, to bedposts, forced her to sleep outside and denied her food for several days as punishment.

The judge said he had initially wanted to write an “informative discourse” concerning the procedures the Department of Human Services follows, which involves input and reports by many other professionals outside DHS. However, with the case under review, he decided not to comment on those issues so the case can be decided on its merits.

In his statement,, Barefoot said rules of confidentiality require he remain quiet on specific subject matters regarding the case.

In his statement he said he wanted to convey “that I respect all parties involved in this case, I do not condone any criminal acts that occurred, and I have no feeling of ill will against anyone or any organization that has voiced a public opinion on this case.

“Decisions involving custody of minors almost always involve a balancing act between the trauma of removing children from the parents they purportedly love, versus evaluating their potential for harm by allowing them to remain with the parents,” his statement said. “Since this case is being reviewed, I have decided not to discuss the current laws, or lack of laws. Neither will I discuss the DHS procedures and policies that apply. The case should be decided on its merits and not by public pressure or opinion.”

The judge also relayed in his statement that he knew this term in office would be his last, and that he and his wife will be leaving Fairview by the end of the year to move closer to their families.

“Regardless of the next legal decision, I will share the essence of conversations I had early on, ‘only God knows the real answer here, and this will be the final judgment.’ Truly, in the final analysis, only God can enable all these children to overcome the experiences they have endured, first in Liberia, then later in America both before, and as a result of this legal ordeal, and in their lives going forward.”

Barefoot also said every candidate for office should be held accountable, and “no candidate can avoid public pressure. In this election year, every candidate must choose how they will respond to this pressure, and if elected, should be held accountable. The best advice I can give anyone about supporting elected officials is found in I Timothy 2: 1-4.”

Ahna Barefoot, a free-lance writer, said her husband would not be making any further statements to reporters. She said the judge “weighed carefully” his comments and “this has been a tough balancing act for him.”


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