Like Cinderella’s, my adventure ends at midnight when my temporary password vanishes in a shower of electrons. I thank all of the editors for the opportunity to guest-blog here. I want to offer a substantive post on a serious legal topic before I go. I’ve been spending some time in court lately; I tried a felony jury case with my students in October. I’ve been in the academy since 1994, so being in court on a regular basis is a novelty. I’ve seen many domestic violence cases now, and observed first-hand the truth of the conventional wisdom that some victim-witnesses do not wish to participate in a prosecution of their boyfriends or husbands. Prosecutors then face the unappealing alternatives of dropping the charges in a case involving a violent crime, or going forward by putting the victim of a crime under threat of prosecution or contempt.
Something occurred to me that would make these cases more prosecutable; it may well already be in the literature, I offer it more as a notion flowing from a war story than a proposal or fully-baked idea. Here it is: Why not take victim-witnesses directly from the scene of the arrest to a court reporter, with a magistrate present or available, put them under oath, and take their testimony while it is still fresh? Call it a domestic violence preliminary hearing. Then, if the victim recants, the prior testimony can be used at trial (or to induce a plea).
There are a number of objections, none of which seem insurmountable.