New York’s District Attorney’s Office has discovered a new way to deal with imprisoned abusers who manipulate or threaten their victims into not testifying over the phone. By using inmates recorded calls in court , Scott Kesseler, chief of the domestic violence bureau for Queens could show that abusers were intimidating their victims, even if victims wouldn’t testify. Kessler says that using the tapes is a legal theory called forfeiture by wrong doing, “it’s a theory that says..you have the right to confront a witness that’s against you, unless you’re the reason they don’t come forward.” In the past it’s been used in mob murder cases when the accused has intimidated a potential witness. Calls to attorneys and clergy are exempt from monitoring.
While some defense attorneys are unhappy about this policy, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says that in jail, rights are limited, including the right to private phone calls. This legal innovation tool is gaining so much traction, Kessler is being asked to teach other prosecutors how to tap into jailhouse calls in domestic violence cases. Until last year, the district attorney’s office was dismissing about 70% of it’s domestic violence cases. Now because of recordings that number is down to 15%.
Kessler’s new legal techniques work to ensure justice for domestic violence victims in New York. Hopefully these new legal innovations will spread throughout the country to continue to strengthen domestic violence cases against abusers. At FVPC our Court Services Coordinator and interns work with victims of domestic violence providing emotional support and information in court. If you or a loved one are in a dangerous situation or need help in an abusive relationship call our hotline at 919-929-7122 to speak to a trained advocate.