October 16, 2007
Contact: Mark Rosenthal, <>
Men Presumed Guilty by Domestic Violence Laws, Experts Say
WASHINGTON, October 16, 2007 –
Our nation's domestic violence laws have reached the point that the mere accusation of abuse triggers a legal response that short-circuits due process. As a result, men are often presumed guilty without evidence of abuse, according to experts.
Michael Weiss and Cathy Young, writing in a Cato Institute report, noted that persons have been working for years to "reverse the presumption of innocence" by revamping state laws that govern domestic violence and sexual assault cases.1
That bias was evident in the Duke lacrosse case where three students accused of rape were subjected to numerous prosecutorial abuses, despite the lack of evidence of assault. Last week the three former players filed a federal lawsuit against former prosecutor Michael Nifong and the city of Durham for alleged "premeditated police, prosecutorial, and scientific misconduct."
Cincinnati attorney Tim Smith recounts a woman who violently attacked her husband, breaking three of his ribs. Falling to the ground, his head banged into hers. When the police arrived, she was bragging how she had assaulted her husband. Despite the fact that she was the aggressor, the man was also arrested. The woman was released from jail on her own recognizance. But the judge required the injured man to post a $10,000 bond.
Commenting on the Ohio domestic violence statute, Hamilton County judge Nadine Allen notes, "There's no doubt that this law has been abused."2
The problem of "guilty-until-proven-innocent" is not limited to a handful of rogue prosecutors or judges. One New York City attorney commented, "My client is guilty the minute he walks in the door."3
Writing in the William and Mary Law Review, constitutional law expert Cheryl Hanna noted, "evidentiary standards for proving abuse have been so relaxed that any man who stands accused is considered guilty."4
According to RADAR spokesperson Elizabeth Crawford, "The prevalent guilty-until-proven innocent bias in domestic violence and sexual assault cases harms not only the falsely accused, but their families and children as well. And we, the taxpayers, get to pay for these miscarriages of justice."
The bias is also found in sentencing procedures. Donna LeClerc, director of a Florida-based domestic abuse treatment program, observed, "Women serve half of the sentence a man does for the same crime, if she serves time in jail at all."5
RADAR's report, "Bias in the Judiciary: The Case of Domestic Violence" documents how bias permeates the judicial process: http://www.mediaradar.org/docs/RADARreport-Bias-In-The-Judiciary.pdf.
Cato Institute. Feminist Jurisprudence. Washington, DC: Policy Analysis No. 256, 1996.
Pierce M. Home is Where the Hurt Is: Domestic Violence has Unexpected Victims. City Beat September 5, 2007.
Gavin C, Puffett N. Criminal domestic violence case processing: A case study of the five boroughs of New York City. New York: Center for Court Innovation. 2005. pp. 36-37.
William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 39, 1998, page 1516, "The Paradox of Hope: The Crime and Punishment of Domestic Violence".
Donna LeClerc, quoted in Karsh D. New program helps women who batter. NBC2 News Online, February 8, 2006.
R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://mediaradar.org.
- 30 -