Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is your spouse Fair Game?

From the Daily Mail

Domestic violence is now legal in Kansas's capital after the city changed the law - to save police time.

In a shocking move yesterday, Topeka's mayor and council repealed the ruling banning domestic violence and released 18 suspects from jail without charge. Victims of domestic abuse appear to have become pawns in an argument between county and city politicians over who should pay for prosecutions.

Cutting corners: Domestic violence is now legal in Topeka, Kansas, because leaders say they can't afford prosecutions. Shawnee County's district attorney last month handed over responsibility for prosecuting crimes including domestic abuse and battery to the city. But Topeka's leaders say they cannot afford to provide services for domestic abuse victims as well as rent jail space from the county for suspects.

Domestic violence support groups were horrified at the move, saying that 'people could die while they're waiting to straighten this out'.
'I absolutely do not understand it,' said Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
'It's really outrageous that they're playing with family safety to see who blinks first. People could die while they're waiting to straighten this out.'
The repeal came during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. City and county officials have received hundreds of emails in the last few days from people upset over the situation.

Shocking move: Only three city councillors voted against the proposal to legalise battery and domestic abuse
'Just the fact that it was on our agenda gave us a black eye,' said city councillor Denise Everhart, who was one of just three leaders to vote against repealing the ordinance.
Claudine Dombrowski, an abuse survivor from Topeka, told the council: 'It's a slam in our face'.
She threw dice down on the podium as she spoke, saying, 'Roll the dice — that's what we're playing here.'
District attorney Chad Taylor insisted that the county commission forced his decision to cut the budget by 10 percent next year, with his office still swamped by felony cases.
His spokesman called Topeka's move 'drastic and unprecedented', but said Mr Taylor would re-evaluate his position.
Dan Stanley, who was voted official negotiator with the county over the prosecution of domestic violence cases on Tuesday, advocated the change in the law.
He said: 'I think it draws a line in the sand. It says we will remove all ambiguity from this question, and we will negotiate from a position of strength.'

'It just means there is a new dynamic in play,' said Mr Taylor's spokesman.
Topeka has had at least 35 reported incidents of domestic battery or assault since early September.

With those cases not being pursued, as of Friday, 18 people have been released from jail without charge, according to police.

Prosecutors and police have refused to discuss details of the cases out of concern for victims' privacy, making it difficult to assess in what situations suspects are not being prosecuted.
The use of a weapon in an assault or battery makes a crime a felony, which would be handled in state court.

Mr Taylor has said he knew his decision would upset people but added that the cuts his office faces will force him to lay off 11 of his 63 employees. He said had he considered 'every angle' before making his announcement in early September.

In a memo issued just days before the county commission finalized his budget for next year, Mr Taylor's office said the cuts would force it to drop its prosecution of misdemeanors occurring within Topeka's city limits and 'of greatest concern are domestic violence cases.'
Topeka officials feared the city's ordinance against domestic violence could have forced them to take over prosecuting cases and filing them in its municipal court.

They said they could not handle the £47-a-day cost per inmate of renting space from the county to jail several hundred suspected abusers, or of hiring additional staff to handle prosecutions.
The city already handles cases of simple assault and battery, and incidents of assault or battery against police. Domestic assault or battery victims often need additional services or shelter.
For years, the city and county agreed that the district attorney's office would handle domestic violence prosecutions in the better-funded state courts.

City officials also note that municipal court convictions can be appealed to state courts.
More than 20 demonstrators gathered outside the Shawnee County Courthouse yesterday to protest against the decision.

Many of them went to the City Council meeting to express their opposition to its actions.
'Everyone's just saying, "Oh, it's not us you need to be talking to. It's this other person,"' said Hannah Rucker, a protester from University of Kansas. 'And it's just going in this circle of, "It's not my fault."'

There is no getting around, You get what you vote for.



Anonymous said...

Am I reading this correctly? This feels like a personal punch in the gut, I feel sick at heart AND to my stomach. Nooooooooo.


Anonymous said...


Toad said...

common sense may occasionally prevail. Let us give thanks

GP said...

I lived in Kansas -- in the 1980s while in graduate school at Lawrence. Outside of the town of Lawrence, the state felt medieval in its provincialism and apathy. That the fly-over of Uhmerica has become synonymous with the Taliban is just more evidence that one becomes their enemy rather curiously.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let us give thanks, thank you Sir.

We like to think that for every minute hour day week year LIFE we've put in on this issue of domestic violence, that a collective "fund" was being built up somewhere, a fund of legitimacy and experience documenting the abuse, establishing it as True, helping it to be Heard and Believed beyond the confines of the closed door, all the way downtown to the courtroom. Not true.

For every person [usually a woman] who seeks to be understood and legitimized on these grounds, each has to make her case anew, all over again, as though no one had ever gone before her, no standards ever established, no firm grounds for recourse. Even after she's broken her way out of the house, it's like she's on her own all over again with the courts and with society.

It is tragic what happens to these women and children, they are so grateful for even a little bit of help. To everyone who's reading, do support your local shelters if at all possible.