Introduction WATCH publishes defendant chronologies in an effort to showcase how the courts deal with violent crimes including domestic assault. These crimes have a history of being ignored (until 40 years ago, they were considered private, family matters of no concern to the state) or minimized (as when police would routinely suggest a man who had assaulted his wife “take a walk around the block to cool down” rather than arrest him). While laws and attitudes have greatly improved, we can still see evidence of the tendency to treat these crimes less seriously than others.
WATCH bid a fond, but sad farewell to staff member Anna Light in August. Anna applied for an internship to WATCH in 2007. She excelled in that role, quickly picking up on what is important to note during monitoring, and helping prepare and accompany new monitors to court. We were thrilled when she applied for the volunteer coordinator position approximately 6 months later. Anna was a warm, competent presence in the office, with talents ranging from excellent writing skills to ways to make volunteers feel welcomed and appreciated. She left WATCH to attend William Mitchell college of Law.
Recently, a WATCH monitor returned from a sentencing at the Hennepin County Government Center. The defendant was charged with strangling his girlfriend with whom he has two children. The victim requested that she be allowed to have contact with the defendant because she needs his financial support. She stated that, “One can of formula costs more than I make in an hour.” In another domestic violence case, a woman requested that her order for protection be dismissed because she could not manage the increased cost of driving her child three times a week to meet with the father or pay for additional child care without him in the home. This is not a choice anyone should have to make.
Thumbs up to a national effort with leadership from Minnesota to increase safety for American Indian women. Indian women experience the highest rates of sexual and domestic violence, yet complex jurisdictional issues contribute to an extremely low level of prosecutions against their abusers. Senator Al Franken is leading an effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to clarify jurisdictional authority between tribes and the federal government in both criminal and civil matters.
The 24-year-old defendant pleaded guilty to felony second degree assault for stabbing his girlfriend and misdemeanor violation of a no contact order. At the hearing, his probation officer said, “It [committing the crime] isn’t because he’s violent, he’s just immature.”
WATCH’s mission is creating a more responsive justice system, one that makes the needs and safety of victims its top priority and acknowledges the unique life circumstances of each individual. But in most cases, that goal is more difficult than it sounds, even in ways that may, at first, seem straightforward. The following situation is just one example. We are including it here to spur ongoing, thoughtful discussions about these complex issues.