By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer
How many times have I heard a client utter the words in a Colorado domestic violence case – “But I have no criminal history”…as if those words will immunize them from prosecution.
The second most used phrase – “she is not pressing charges” quickly follows the first.
Recently the Denver Post Ran an Article on Domestic Violence.
“The Denver Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee found in its study that most people who commit murder and then suicide typically have no police record. That means the clues to violent behavior come from understanding the dynamics of domestic violence.”
The article spoke about Rick Walters and his former wife who exchanged custody of their three children at his Loveland home on Jan. 27, On that date, Walters shot and killed his ex-wife and two of the kids before turning the gun on himself.
The police had never been called to the home, and he had no criminal record.
“You can’t predict which cases are going to end in tragedy,” said Phyllis Roestenberg with the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center.
“There were red flags in the (Walters) case, and you need to take them seriously.” Robert Smith, the court-appointed special advocate for the Loveland case, wrote before the killings that Walters needed to “get a firm handle on his anger and a desire for revenge” before he can focus on his parenting.
He also cited concern for Walters’ “reported use of the children to express his anger.”
Walters’ former wife, Anne Formosa, also said that her husband isolated her from friends and family, Smith noted. Smith wrote: “Father continues to feel maligned by Mother, and wants her to reconcile and to return home to resume life the way it was.”
Larimer County District Court Judge William Dressel finalized the couple’s divorce. He would not discuss the specifics of the case. He did, however, say that both parents rejected the idea of using a neutral site to exchange custody, saying it would be too inconvenient.
H. Michael’s Take:
This is the most tragic of all Domestic Violence cases and it is the horror story that every DA, Judge and Probation Officer fear the most.
The truth is that patterns of DV often go unreported for years. The police, the DA and the Judge “assume” that a lack of criminal history is NOT evidence and that DV has occurred and they proceed on the basis that the “victim” has not reported it.. thus, in effect, canceling out the presumption of innocence accorded to Defendant’s by the Colorado and US Constitutions.
Sometimes prior acts of Domestic Violence have gone unreported — sometimes there simply were none…this iis the first. The crux of the issue – and what the Defendant / the accused / the client needs to understand is the culture of the criminal justice system – its mindset.
The system focus’s on disbelieving the victim and treating (usually a female) as if they are a child, a liar, or both — and disregarding the protestaions of this person as if what they have to say is meaningless…is the Government’s belief that the Government is “acting on her behalf,” “in her best interests” nothwithstanding what she wants!
So here it is …. a lack of criminal history in the context of accusations of domestic violence — holds little weight in the criminal justice system. The answer? — this lawyer may seek to have a professional – such as a therapist conduct a private DV evaluation on the client (assuming they can afford same) to establish for the DA , the Court, Probation etc and for settlement purposes only- (assuming the DA has a case and the incident DID occur and can be proven in court) – that this was an isolated and is unlikely to reoccur.
A Domesitc Violation evaluation can establish the credibility of the Defendant’s statement – specifically that this was an isloated incident and it will not be repeated.