A district attorney in Shawnee County, Kansas was forced to not prosecute any domestic violence misdemeanors and only focus on felonies. County leaders urged that the district attorney was using battered women as a means to negotiate for increased funding for his office. The City Council voted 7 to 3 to repeal a local law which made domestic violence a crime.
Since September, eighteen people were arrested for domestic violence charges but were released as a result of the agency’s decision to not prosecute new cases. So what does this mean for victims and advocates? It means that in all the budget cuts considered by the City Council, local lawmakers found domestic violence at the bottom of their priorities.
During a month in which we should recognize and bring awareness of domestic violence, it seems as if funding is insufficient to even recognize domestic violence as a crime in Kansas. Victims of domestic violence must feel unprotected and unrecognized as the city is failing to protect them. We would at least hope that if any of the would-be misdemeanors could be charged as felonies they would be. Unfortunately, given the city’s budget cuts and resistance to charge people of domestic violence, more felony prosecutions seem an unlikely result.
While the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, was commemorating Domestic Violence Awareness Month during October and informing his city about the domestic violence awareness initiative, Stop Abuse From Existing (S.A.F.E.), another city half-way across the nation seems to have excluded the recognition, impact, and significance of domestic violence all together. How can we reconcile these two extremes into a single American legal system? While it seems budget cuts are to blame, we wonder why there even is a hierarchy of crimes. Is violence against partners through battery, assault, and other means really at the bottom of the list, but more importantly, why is there a list?
District Attorney of Topeka, Kansas, Chad Taylor, argued that it was a “recent uptick in violent crime” which he attributed to increased gang activity. Mr. Taylor may have felt pressured to make this decision, but throughout the country prosecutors need to make decisions and prioritize cases. It is unfortunate and shocking that this city found domestic violence at the bottom of the hierarchy when other items on the budget seem as if they could have been given less of a priority, while other cities continue to raise awareness and expand initiatives to curb the spread of domestic violence.
Editor-in-Chief, Criminal Law Brief