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Minnesota Legislature

Domestic fatality team funding

Published (3/6/2009)
By Mike Cook
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What began as a pilot project in one judicial district could become permanent across the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul), HF248 would allow the state’s Fourth Judicial District to maintain its domestic fatality review team, and permit other judicial districts to create the same.

Current law refers to the team as a pilot project, and limits its availability to the lone district.

Approved Feb. 27 by the House Crime Victims/Criminal Records Division, it was held over March 5 by the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. A companion, SF17, sponsored by Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Established on Aug. 1, 2000, the team was created to improve policies and procedures to better address domestic violence in Hennepin County.

“A number of intervening agencies look at the facts when there’s been a domestic violence homicide and try to figure out what systematic problems have occurred that might get corrected in the future,” Paymar said. “It’s my hope that more judicial districts will start review teams, this does not require that. There is no money involved here.”

Program Coordinator Deena Anders said it would continue allowing the team access to non-public data, something essential to its work. “We mostly draw from county attorney files, police files, medical records to create a thorough analogy of the cases as far back as we can. We look at the relationship, other involvement of police all the way up to the homicide, as well as the court outcomes.”

The bill also reduces, from two to one annually per team, a report to the Legislature that consists of aggregate recommendations without reference to specific cases.

Among changes that have been implemented because of team activity, Anders said, is the establishment of a domestic court calendar in the district. A pilot project is also underway at one Minneapolis Police Department precinct that enhances investigation techniques. “It has led to a 23 percent increase in convictions of domestic assaults,” she said.

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