The road to jail for April Griffin began soon after her son Jesse was born, though she would have never guessed it at the time. Because she had sought state aide for medical coverage for the child, the state brought suit to determine paternity. She said she signed the petition because she was told she had to, though she said she had not wanted child support from the boy's biological father.
By the time the case reached Judge Michael Guolee on May 14, the judge would note early in the hearing that Griffin "was her own worst enemy." And when Griffin had finished cross-examining Sebuliba and other witnesses herself, she had only succeeded in convincing the judge to support Sebuliba. "I think he is a good father," he said. "He would be a good man. He is not going to hurt that baby."
Professor Judith McMullen of Marquette Law School said judges are often forced to rely on gut instincts about who is telling the truth in custody cases involving allegations — but little proof — of domestic violence. "It's a credibility issue, and judges often simply go with their intuition about who is telling the truth," McMullen told TIME. "These are very sad cases. People usually want to say well, for example, the mother is lying and the father is an innocent victim. But that is not usually the case. Even if there was no abuse, the mother often truly believes there was."