| Attorney General
Joins Purple Berets!
long-awaited report from California Attorney General Dan Lungren
came out in late September, 1996, one thing was conspicuously missing:
any investigation of the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department's handling
of the Teresa Macias case. (It was Teresa's April murder at her
husband's hand that sparked the investigation.) Since May, Sheriff
Mark lhde has been deflecting public inquiry into the Macias case
by hiding behind his promise of an investigation by the Attorney
General, all the while knowing that no such investigation was forthcoming.
In fact, the sheriff never requested it.
Lungren's office did investigate (county policies and procedures
for handling domestic violence cases) led them to recommend many
of the same changes that local women's groups have been demanding
for years. The
Attorney General has added his voice to ours in calling for:
enforcement should correct "the practice of trying to discourage
victims from filing complaints.
We've been complaining of their constant efforts to dump these
cases for years.
more victim services in the DA's office. As it is now, the
county's only victim/witness advocate has been banned from domestic
violence cases. The domestic violence counselor (who does no
advocacy; only counseling) limits most of her services to victims
in felony cases. The vast majority of the needs of victims,
especially those whose cases are charged as misdemeanor, are
not being met at all by the District Attorney's office staff.
handling of misdemeanor domestic violence cases. Counties
that have made real progress in ending domestic violence agree
that their success is due to vigorously prosecuting it at the
misdemeanor level, getting the message across early on that
it's criminal behavior that will be harshly punished. By contrast,
Sonoma County's courts often operate more like a revolving door
in misdemeanor cases. Not surprisingly, the violence only escalates
when batterers see how easily they can get away with it. The
AG seems to want that to stop. We certainly do.
qualified Spanish-speaking personnel at the various critical
stages of domestic violence cases. This was one of the demands
of the Equal Justice for Women & Children Petition, sponsored
by the Purple Berets and other groups in 1993.
and report uniform statistical information on domestic violence
cases. This too was a provision of the petition. DA Mike
Mullins defied the California Public Records Act and threats
to sue just to keep us from tracking his handling of these crimes.
a county Coordinating Council on Domestic Violence. The
Task Force on Violence Against Women was in the process of doing
this when task force leadership halted the process rather than
include the county's only victim witness advocate and a representative
of women's rights groups on the council.
a decision is made not to prosecute a domestic violence case,
deputy district attorneys should provide specific reasons for
dropping the case. All filing decisions should be reviewed
by a supervisor. This was also called for in the Equal Justice
for Women Petition.
domestic violence training should be mandated for all deputy
DA's. The AG recommends specifically that training on "signs
of potential for future lethal acts" be included.
all law enforcement agencies on the "primary aggressor" provision
of domestic violence policy. This is to stop the practice
of arresting women victims in domestic violence cases if the
perpetrator has an injury. We've had personal reports of five
women jailed in just the last few weeks. This is sheer retaliation,
and must stop.
the Attorney General investigators came up with some ideas of
deputies need to leam how to write crime reports.
- In what
we call the 'Mark Lopez proviso', "Law enforcement should
consider adopting a policy which precludes personnel who have
been the subject of domestic violence complaints which have
been found to be valid from handling such complaints." In
other words, cops with a history of stalking or spousal abuse
should not be sent to investigate these crimes. Duh!
courts should consider ending family mediation in dissolution
cases where there has been domestic violence.
order materials given to the court should be provided to law
enforcement, including the prosecutor. This would mean that
police and the DA would be made aware of criminal acts included
in restraining order applications. Presumably they would then
conduct criminal investigations.
violence training for all judges and courtroom personnel, including
family court mediators.
With all of
this, the truth is the Attorney General's report doesn't even
touch on the real cause of Teresa Macias' death: law enforcement's
complete lack of will to treat domestic violence as a serious
violent crime. Still, implementing the AG's recommendations would
be a big step in the right direction.