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High-Risk Domestic Violence Court aims to reduce Cuyahoga’s high number of incidents, deaths

Court ruling
Posted at 5:50 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 17:50:29-04

CLEVELAND — A new effort to reduce the number of people who are murdered by their intimate partners officially launched in Cuyahoga County on Monday. The High-Risk Domestic Violence Court in the Court of Common Pleas has begun screening accused domestic violence offenders to be part of its new docket.

The court will be overseen by Judge Sherrie Miday, a former Cleveland prosecutor who advocated for the county to create the specialized docket for felony high-risk domestic violence cases.

The Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas received a $1 million three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to create the special docket. Many municipal courts, including The City of Cleveland, have had dedicated domestic violence dockets for years. However, the county, which handles felony cases, did not.

“From before I was elected to the bench, I knew we had to do things different,” said Judge Miday.

Who is eligible
The high-risk court will take 50 of the most potentially lethal domestic violence cases every year.

The criteria for eligibility to the docket will include cases where a firearm was used during the crime or the alleged victim was strangled. Research has shown those types of incidents are the most likely to later result in a domestic violence homicide, according to Judge Miday.

"It's a red flag that we haven't really considered in handling these cases," she said, adding, “It’s time to shine attention on these risk factors that we know so we can predict the escalation of these domestic violence offenses and these assaults. And if we can predict, then there are ways we can reduce the risk."

Miday said 400 cases met the criteria to be part of the court last year.

How it works
The court will use a team approach to work towards its goals of improving victim safety and increasing offender accountability.

There will be a dedicated prosecutor, two public defenders and a pre-trial probation officer in order to provide consistency.

The pre-trial probation officer will review cases for eligibility and supervise offenders on the docket.

Accused offenders released on bond will be required to wear a GPS monitor and no-contact orders will be strictly enforced, said Miday. Offenders will also partner with the University of Cincinnati as part of a new batterer's intervention.

The court will also work with the county's Witness Victim Service Center to provide a dedicated advocate for the docket, as well as services like counseling and helping victims find safe housing.

"It’s a global solution to these homicides," said Miday. "We're filling gaps along the way."

Why it matters
"It’s lifesaving," said Miday, regarding the impact of a high-risk domestic violence docket. "We can't do anything once someone is killed. "

She said San Diego realized a 50% reduction in domestic violence homicides five years after it implemented a similar model.

"The model works, and it’s about time that we brought it to Cuyahoga County," she said.

Cuyahoga County has among the highest number of reported domestic violence incidents and domestic violence homicides in the state, according to a court spokesperson. On average, there are approximately 16 deaths linked to domestic violence and close to 7,500 reported incidents each year.

"Is this docket going to prevent all intimate partner homicides in Cuyahoga County?" asked Miday. "We’re not naive to think that we can prevent every single one, but if we can prevent one, then we’re successful.

"If we can improve people’s lives, then we’re successful. If we can give a victim of a violent crime, faith, renewed faith, in the justice system then we’ve been successful."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.

RELATED: Case Dismissed: Why domestic violence offenders often get away with it

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