A Street Cop’s Perspective on Domestic Violence Prosecutions

Los Angeles, CA–Background: WolfmanMac, one of my readers, is a former Midwestern street cop who often saw some of the anti-male abuses I discuss in my writing while he served. His previous contribution to our site was An Ex-Cop’s Perspective on Rape Accusations, True and False. I often use pull quotes to highlight the most important points of the stories I discuss, but in this one the punch line is just too good to give away… A Domestic Violence Story You Won’t See on Lifetime Television
By WolfmanMac Late one afternoon in 1997 I was radio assigned to investigate a report of domestic violence. Upon my arrival I made contact with the reporting party. She was of average height and build, not unattractive, and was very composed as she told me the story. She and her husband had been arguing and during the course of the argument he, while wearing “work boots,’ had kicked her in the shin. She showed me the bruise (approximately the size of a dime) about midway up her shin that she stated had been caused by the blow. She was very much in favor of charges being pressed, but that was in any event irrelevant – the jurisdiction in which I worked had a “shall arrest’ law which stated that if a woman stated she had been hit and displayed marks or bruises less than 72 hours old, arrest was mandatory. I traveled to his place of business (approximately 5 minutes drive from the house). Finding him there, I interviewed him about the day”s events. In the course of the interview, he admitted they had an argument earlier in the day, that he had come to the shop “to cool off’ (he owned the business), but he denied touching her, much less kicking her in the shin. Of course he would say that, thought I. These wife beaters always lie. But it really didn”t matter – I just wanted to get an incriminating statement from him to assist in prosecution. With her statement, and a photograph of a visible bruise, I had all I needed. Smug in the knowledge that I was striking a blow for the powerless and hoping he would resist, I arrested, transported and booked him for Domestic Violence/Assault and Battery. As time went by, the arrest faded into the routine of calls and arrests, calls and reports, hours without calls and traffic stops. But a couple of things came to my attention that caused me to approach the District Attorney”s office about the case, and it is there the story really begins – it is there I should have taken note, years before I finally did, of the rot that is the “Violence Against Women Industry.’ First, the District Attorneys Domestic Violence Section called me about the photographs – the Evidence Room had lost them and they wanted to know if I was sure I had submitted them as evidence. I assured them that yes, I had. They asked me if the woman, upon our initial contact, had told me she suffered from a Thyroid condition which causes her to bruise almost upon any contact. I answered no, she had not disclosed that. They asked me to describe the bruise – I answered that it was about the size of a dime, midway up her shin and faint, but clearly a bruise. But in the back of my mind, I was picturing him, picturing her, picturing him kicking her in the shin (wearing work boots no less) and leaving a faint bruise on a person who bruises at a touch. But I dismissed the thought, that wasn”t my end of the deal. The Assistant DA thanked me, said she”d get back into contact with the Evidence Room and see if they could find the pictures, but if they couldn”t, my testimony would be necessary as he was pleading “not guilty.’ I laughed out loud at that revelation, said something sarcastic like “good luck with that,’ and got off the phone. Months passed, during which I got a couple more phone calls about the photographs as the DA prepared for trial and both times had occasion to wonder why this one stupid case would not go away. I don”t remember exactly how I came by the information, but I think it was another deputy acquainted with some of the players in the case who gave me a number and suggested I call it for information pertinent to the investigation. In any event, I wound up with a copy of a protective order this woman had filed against her ex-husband, some two years before. In it, she had requested (and was granted) an Order of Protection against her ex based upon the exact same details she gave to me in her initial report on the afternoon I arrested her current husband. Two men, and the exact same statement. Not just the story was the same – she used the exact same words to complain of the exact same attack (kicking her in the shin wearing work boots), to describe her fear of him and to express her intention to prosecute. That was enough for me at that point. I had been beginning to suspect I had been had, and this revelation convinced me it was so. I determined to go to the DA”s office and get this case dismissed. After getting off shift that next morning (I was working “dog watch,’11pm-7am), I presented myself in the Domestic Violence section of the DA”s office. The DV section in that county normally had two Assistant DA”s assigned and I never saw a man work in that office. I did however know one of the women socially (I”ll call her Ann, because I don”t remember her name), so the conversation was friendly as I told them what I had found and presented them with the original Protective Order. They huddled together to read the affidavit and both let out audible moans when they came to the pertinent sections. Ann moved back over to her desk, sat down and said something like, “Well, we”re screwed.’ The other attorney held her head in her hands, and we all stood there for a long moment. My thoughts immediately turned to my waiting bed. What happened next was shocking. The other attorney suddenly brightened, looked at me, looked at Ann and said, “I know what we can do.’ “Do tell,” said Ann. “Yes, do tell,” thought I, feeling slightly sick. “We can call an expert to testify that one characteristic of Battered Women”s Syndrome is to return to the same type of abusive relationship in the future – that”s why the wording is the same, because she found the exact same type of man and married him. And he assaulted her in the exact same way, which is why she gave the exact same statement.’ I protested that this explanation rather strained credulity, don”t you think? Not at all, she said. You just don”t understand battered women. No, I thought, but I do understand lying people. I left there, the case completely out of my hands, after indicating to both women my belief that this case deserved to leave skid marks on the bowl. I was polite about it, though – an argument with the DA”s about a case is not a good career move. Being in front of the Detective Lieutenants desk trying to explain why I, a Sheriff”s Deputy, felt I had any business telling an Assistant District Attorney how to try a case or who to charge with a crime was an excellent way to go right back to the jail I had just spent four years working my way out of. And there are good reasons for that policy – when the DA”s office calls us to try and tell us who or how to investigate, we tell them to mind their own business and if they can”t do that, go pound sand. They had every right to expect the same of us. So I left and went on with my job. Whatever became of the case I don”t know, but I was never called to testify, which leads me to believe she eventually recognized the case was unwinnable. But that isn”t quite the point, is it? The point that stands out for me in this memory was the look on her face when she looked up, visibly transformed, and said, “I know what we can do.’ She didn”t care if this woman had actually been victimized, and she damn sure didn”t care if this poor schmuck was innocent. She wanted to win the case and put somebody in jail. Now, you may think, “Well yes, that is what the DA”s office does. Defense lawyers try to keep people out of jail, and district attorneys try to put people in jail. While this was perhaps distasteful, overreaching behavior on her part, she was just trying to do her job.’ You may think that, and you would be exactly wrong. It is the job of a defense attorney to “zealously defend his client within the bounds of the law.’ This amounts to what often appears (and sometimes frankly is nothing more than) doing whatever he can to keep his client out of jail, or if you prefer, to get his client off. The District Attorneys Office is established and exists to administer justice. That means it is not the job or constitutional mandate of the district attorney to jail people. It is to decide what cases deserve prosecution and, of those cases, what level of prosecution is appropriate. This woman was prepared to, without a second thought, completely violate that mandate to jail a man for a charge of domestic violence that was clearly, inarguably bogus. What was her motive? Was she perhaps a past victim of violence, trying to help others, and just honestly wrong? I can say I”ve seen it before – women who get out of abusive relationships by one means or another and then go to law school and on to prosecuting so they “can make a difference.’ I have a dear friend who followed that exact path, and she is a fine human being. I don”t think that is an ignoble reason. Very American, in a “White Male Linear Logic’ sort of way – put something unpleasant behind you, and use it to motivate you to better things in life. Was she a misguided zealot? Or was she an honest-to-god man hater, who thought putting a man, any man, in jail, is a good thing? Or is it nothing more than the reason discussed above – she just wanted to win the case? Whatever the reason, the fact remains that feminist hysteria and misguided chivalry have constructed a system in which a woman can tell a palpable lie, and still motivate the awesome resources of government against an innocent man. That government will not only follow Newton”s first law, it will never willingly admit it has made a mistake. It will also never willingly change – only the “outside force’ of determined protest has a prayer of forcing changes. But that protest must be loud, and concerted – As Upton Sinclair said, “It is very hard to get someone to understand something when their paychecks depend upon their not understanding it.’ My own culpability in this case (and who knows how many others like it), cannot be denied. I won”t even try. But add my voice to the determined protest.

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