Group finds disparities in handling of Hennepin County domestic violence casesby Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A court-monitoring group found disparities between how Minneapolis and suburban courts in Hennepin County are handling domestic-violence cases.
The group known as WATCH says it found practices in the suburban courts that could allow repeat offenders to fly under the radar.
Executive director Marna Anderson said cities often share part-time prosecutors, who may not have enough resources or time to give high priority to misdemeanor-level domestic-violence cases.
"We really want the municipalities to take some responsibility and say, 'are we doing the best for our community? Are we giving enough time for prosecution for these cases? Are we ever looking at the results? Are we ever looking at the numbers in terms of the reduction of domestic violence?" Anderson said.
The Fourth Judicial District, which serves Hennepin County, praised the report for highlighting important issues. Assistant Chief Judge Pete Cahill says the court will support any efforts to reduce domestic violence.
The group WATCH oversaw nearly 1,500 court appearances in Hennepin County over two years. Anderson said she was surprised to learn that in a quarter of the suburban cases monitored by her group, no pre-sentence investigation was ordered.
"The statute requires a pre-investigation is done, and the reason for that is then probation can set appropriate conditions," she said. "[And] they can supervise the individual appropriately, they can get victim input, they can look at the criminal record and ask themselves, 'How likely is this person to reoffend? And how can we prevent him from reoffending again?'"
The report is scheduled to be released Wednesday.