Amidst much publicity, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Judith Scruggs earlier this week for putting her 12 year old son at risk by maintaining a cluttered and dirty home. Daniel Scruggs tragically committed suicide by hanging himself in his bedroom closet.
While publicly billed as a conviction for conduct which contributed to Daniel's death, the evidence indicated that household conditions were probably unrelated to Daniel's suicide. In fact, the trial court described the situation far differently than most national media accounts.
"The defendant did not physically abuse her child. She was a single parent raising two children and working two jobs, sixty hours a week, to support her family. . . . Many people knew that the defendant's twelve-year old son, Daniel, was in great distress." wrote Judge Stephen Frazzini. Daniel was being constantly bullied at school, occasionally defecated in his pants at school, was frequently absent or tardy, and the state's protective service workers had visited the home shortly before his suicide, yet closed their investigation. According to the judge, "whatever the fault of the school or [the social workers], the state prosecuted and the jury convicted the defendant of risk of injury to Daniel's health because of the living conditions in the home."