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November-December 1997

President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
Orientation Meeting (Grace Furukawa)
Vote Counts (Arlene Ellis)
In Memoriam
League Interviews Prosecutor Peter Carlisle
Public Participation - City Council Style (Astrid Monson)
From the National Office: Campaign Finance Reform
Campaign Finance Information Paper (Arlene Ellis)
Gambling Consensus
Con Con Question (Jean Aoki)
Women and Heart Health Public Education Symposium
Alana Bowman

League Interviews Prosecutor Peter Carlisle

To continue our public dialogue on violence against women in our community and to learn more about the planning process and the evaluation process for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) funds coming into the state over the next six years, the League interviewed Peter Carlisle. Here are some excerpts from that interview. Call the League office for a copy of the entire interview.

What is your perception of VAWA and how those funds should be spent?

It has been used to fund victim services. We are looking at accountability of the funds. This hasn't happened enough. We want to make sure we are doing it money smart.

25% of VAWA money is allocated for prosecution. Where do you think it needs to go?

We have not done enough in the past towards properly investigating and prosecuting these types of cases (domestic violence) at the misdemeanor level where the numbers are staggering. I am very much interested in early contact with victims towards the goal of getting them to cooperate. In my office Victim Witness Kokua does not have the ability to do 24 hour crisis intervention. As of 1996 this office did not have a unit that was specifically devoted to misdemeanor domestic violence. Now it does.

The other thing that I think is absolutely critical in terms of where we need to go with domestic violence cases is to have updated information systems that are shared through out the criminal justice system arena. That is something that basically is now sort of the rage across the nation. Police, prosecutorial, department of public safety and court systems are trying to get it so that it is all in one location and it can be brought out.

Is that what you would describe as your primary building blocks for a coordinated community response?

That isn't even a coordinated community response, that is just a coordinated law enforcement response. This doesn't completely look at the social service agencies aspect of the matter. This looks entirely at law enforcement itself - the courts, the police, the prosecutors, and public safety. If you have got those four entities right now not talking to each other you have major problems.

Besides that kind of automated thing what else would you do to address victim safety?

There is a natural tension between prosecution and victim safety on occasion and resolving it is not very easy to do. My job isn't simply victim oriented, my job is also community safety oriented so I feel that the successful prosecution of these cases with penalties imposed not only serves a benefit to the victim but certainly serves a benefit to the next victim down the line.

If the victim is safe don't you think it would help solve the problem of victims testifying?

I think that is only one factor in a complex equation. I don't think that safety is the only reason why victims don't testify. Some victims want to get back into the circumstance. Want to save the family.

What do you see as the different roles between private advocacy & public advocacy in the prosecutors office?

The people who are working for me are public advocates and they are working towards the goal of getting a successful prosecution. Private advocates have the luxury of doing what they think is right for the single victim. There is a tension in the victim witness unit between the need to provide services for a victim and the need to remember that they are part of the prosecutors office.

But everything would involve victims being safe, right?

That would be true for everybody, not just true for domestic violence cases. You can't ignore the necessity of safety, but by the same token you can't ignore the necessity of going ahead with the prosecution.

Is there a plan in place to insure that there is ongoing training in the prosecutors office?

The answer is yes. That's a lot of what the VAWA money has been used for. We would like to get it to a point when it is sophisticated enough that it is going on in-house rather than having to go outside. Dealing with advocates is something that is a little bit foreign to those of us who have merely sort of supervisory experience with lawyers and law firms.

You know that your lead prosecutor has been able to amass one of the best prosecution records in the state through a team approach with strong advocacy. Has that record been looked at and that strategy used as a model?

The answer to that is I tend to be a numbers oriented person and I don't have anything that suggests numbers to me right now and that's what I would like to do.


Domestic violence homicides in our state are about 30% of all homicides. This is twice as high as the national average of 15%. Although we agree with Mr. Carlisle that all crimes deserve attention and all victims need protection, we feel this deplorable situation must be dealt with. Domestic violence victims know their perpetrators. This fact makes them more vulnerable than they would be if the assaults were by strangers. We feel that strong advocacy, addressing victim witness safety and support to leave a dangerous family situation, must be part of the domestic violence unit.

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