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NCJRS Abstract

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  NCJ Number: NCJ 194069     Find in a Library
  Title: Trial Strategies in Domestic Violence Felonies
  Document URL: PDF 
  Dataset URL: DATASET 1
  Author(s): Carolyn C. Hartley Ph.D. ; Roxann Ryan J.D.
  Corporate Author: University of Iowa
School of Social Work
United States of America
  Date Published: 1998
  Page Count: 31
  Series: NIJ Research Report
  Annotation: This study identified the trial strategies used by the prosecution and defense in 40 felony domestic-violence cases (21 murder cases and 19 non-murder cases) in Iowa between 1989 and 1995.
  Abstract: Trial transcripts were scanned into computer files, edited, and analyzed by using the HyperResearch qualitative text analysis program. Three prosecution themes were present in every case: proof that the charged crime had occurred, proof that the defendant was responsible for this crime, and proof of the credibility of the state's evidence of the defendant's guilt. In proving the elements of the crime, prosecutors generally attempted to "tell the story" of the violence, sometimes by including a history of abuse in the relationship and other times focusing only on the violent offense charged. Most prosecutors sought to present some form of corroboration of the victim's account. Defense attorneys generally focused on one of four themes, although there was overlap in some cases: self-defense or provocation, showing that the offense warranted a lesser charge, diminished responsibility, and attempting to raise reasonable doubt that the defendant even committed the crime. The defense used a variety of strategies to pursue these themes. They included attempting to show that the relationship was fine; enhancing the character of the defendant; challenging prosecution evidence as faulty, misleading or inconclusive; and attacking the victim's character. With these strategies, the defense manipulated many common views of abuse dynamics and myths about domestic violence. In order to understand the potential implications of this exploitation of abuse dynamics and myths, the study drew upon research on how jurors make decisions about guilt or innocence in criminal trials. The "story model" of decision making in the trial procedure is the most well-developed model of jury decision making. If jurors accept the commonly held myths about domestic violence, they may "fill in the blanks" with an unrealistic view of the violent relationship, and their evaluation of the evidence may be skewed. Thus, jurors need information about the context of the abusive relationship, because domestic violence is not a commonly understood phenomenon that would make decision making routine for the jurors. Prosecutors must therefore enlighten jurors about the dynamics of abuse by "telling the story" of the abusive relationship. The use of expert testimony is the most direct method for achieving this. 26 notes
  Main Term(s): Court procedures
  Index Term(s): Expert witnesses ; Trial procedures ; Defense ; Prosecution ; Jury decisionmaking ; Domestic assault ; NIJ grant-related documents ; Iowa
  Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
US Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
United States of America
  Grant Number: 95-WT-NX-0003
  Sale Source: University of Iowa
School of Social Work
North Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
  Type: Report (Study/Research)
  Country: United States of America
  Language: English
  Note: Dataset may be archived by the NIJ Data Resources Program at the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data
   
  To cite this abstract, use the following link:
https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=194069

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