New look at increasing prosecution of domestic abuse

October is Domestic Assault Awareness Month, but assistant county attorney Thomas Laehn has already brought up the subject. Laehn wants Greene County to get better at prosecuting cases of domestic abuse, he said at the board of supervisors meeting Tuesday.

Laehn reported that he has attended meetings of the Greene County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a diverse group that includes law enforcement, concerned citizens, and professionals who assist victims.

“There’s an opportunity to do a better job as a community in prosecuting domestic violence,” Laehn told the supervisors.

Greene County is about average in its rate of prosecutions, as reported by the Des Moines Register, with fewer than half being prosecuted. “I’d like Greene County to be better than average,” Laehn said.

One of the big challenges is that victims often recant their testimony, often for reasons those who work in the field understand.

Laehn plans to work toward building enough evidence, working with neighbors or medical professionals who see the victim soon after the assault, so that prosecutions can be successful even without testimony from the victim.

He said Boone County has been more successful, and he plans to visit with the Boone County attorneys about their methods.

Laehn said a successful prosecution rate would make victims more likely to testify, perhaps deterring abuse. “A low prosecution rate makes people unwilling to testify and the problem only grows. We have living in fear in their own homes in our community, and I don’t think we want that,” he said.

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