Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How to Prosecute a DV Case

A man in Athens was given a 22-year sentence for a 2006 assault on his then-wife. This is remarkable because the DA's office chose to pursue the case, and was able to do so successfully, without the victim's involvement.

Robert Lynn Jones, 45, was convicted after a weeklong trial that ended Friday, with jurors taking three hours to find him guilty of family violence aggravated battery, second-degree criminal damage and a slew of motor vehicle violations for leading police on a multicounty chase.

Judge Steve Jones ordered the defendant to serve the first 16 years of the sentence in prison and the balance on probation.

Robert Jones' conviction was significant, because the district attorney's office went forward with prosecution despite a reluctant victim, according to Assistant District Attorney Leslie Spornberger Jones.

"It's an important case for us because domestic violence is something we are pro-prosecution about," Leslie Jones said. "This was a case where (the victim) said she didn't want to be involved, and we said it's basically with the state now."

That allowed the victim to tell her abuser that the district attorney's office was pursuing charges, not her, so he couldn't retaliate, according to Leslie Jones.

Robert Jones is a classic abuser who controlled every aspect of his wife's life to make it difficult for her to break free, Leslie Jones said.

"He told her how to do her hair and what to wear," she said.

The couple moved frequently, from Alabama where they were married in 2002, to the Carolinas, and Clarke and Madison counties, so that local authorities couldn't investigate reports of abuse.

"Every time he did something to her, he would leave, they would get back together, and they'd move somewhere else," Jones said.

The tipping point came Sept. 4, 2006, when the couple argued in the yard of their Hull Road home. The fight moved indoors, where Robert Jones pummeled his wife's face with his fist.

During the trial, one of the responding officers testified it was one of the worst beatings he'd seen, according to Leslie Jones.

Robert Jones fled his home, but he returned later that day and led officers on a chase through Madison and Jackson counties, then back to Athens where he wrecked his car and ran, police said.

Officers found him two days later, holed up in a motel in Monroe where he threatened drink antifreeze and kill himself.

"That was a key issue in the trial because it described the whole cycle of violence," Leslie Jones said. "He would always get (the victim) back by apologizing, and when that didn't work, he'd threaten suicide."

The victim divorced Robert Jones after the 2006 assault, and has since remarried and lives in another state, she said.
Prosecutors often rely on victim testimony in domestic violence battery cases and many will dismiss if a victim refuses to participate. However, women who have experienced domestic violence have many good reasons to fear cooperating with prosecutors, including fear of her partner's retaliation or not wanting him to go to jail because she relies on his income. This case and others like it prove that it is possible for the state to successfully pursue charges without victim involvement. After all, these cases are Georgia v. Johnson and not A. Johnson v. B. Johnson. It is the state's responsibility to keep its citizen's safe and to hold those who commit crimes accountable for their actions.

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