In almost all countries, prosecutors are very powerful individuals. Programmers who plan trainings for prosecutors and prosecutor staff should implement careful strategies to promote attendance and a readiness to learn on the part of prosecutors.
Creating the infrastructure for training:
Foundation for prosecutor training programme planning:
The following strategies establish a foundation for prosecutor trainings on violence against women and girls
Creating an effective prosecutor educational programme
Begin trainings on prosecutor techniques in violence against women cases with a session that acknowledges the resentment that most prosecutors feel towards victims.
Using case studies in training prosecutors
A Sample One-Day Training Agenda on “Bringing a Domestic Violence Case to Trial”
30 min: Introduction: Introduce yourself and partners. Ask audience to introduce themselves and identify their office, experience level, what they hope to learn today, what the most pressing problems faced by their office are.
15 min: Outline community needs and expectations of prosecutors. Briefly discuss applicable criminal domestic violence laws.
15 min: Discuss the effect of the dynamics of domestic violence on prosecutions: Understanding her reluctance to testify and the possibility that she might recant. Use case studies of intimidation techniques, i.e., jailhouse calls, threats to other family members or pets. Discuss how to reconcile respect for victim wishes with prosecutor duty to protect society from violence. No easy answers!
30 min: Discuss most important guiding principle: do not contribute to the re-victimization of the survivor. Obtain group input on ways that this could happen, for example: delays in investigating or charging the case, becoming angry, issuing ultimatums. How to reduce survivor withdrawal: Support her by ensuring that orders for protection are enforced and that there are consequences if intimidation tactics are used, utilize support of advocates, expedite the case, don’t say things like “YOU must press charges”- make sure she knows it is the state that is bringing the case.
45 min: Plan how to approach and investigate your case: Plan for an absent victim, even if you think the victim will testify. Develop physical evidence: photos of crime scene, victim, and perpetrator; and forensic reports. Include tapes of emergency and witness calls, and dispatch logs. Obtain records of excited utterances and statement of perpetrator and witnesses. Make a diagram of the incident.
15 min: Break
15 min: Articulate the advantages and challenges of vertical prosecution: improving your ability to argue the case (the one who charges the case does the arraignment, pre-trial, trial, sentencing, and post-sentencing hearings) vs. the case is driving you crazy!
45 min: Unpack charging decisions. Small group break-out: What do you need to charge a case? Analyzing resources and using case studies with different levels of evidence to illustrate effective charging decisions.
30 min: Show video of dual arrest scenarios, discuss effect upon survivors.
60 min: Lunch or other break
60 min: Delve into the complex issue of bail in domestic violence cases: the importance of focusing on victim safety. Refer back to intimidation techniques and the importance of risk assessment standards (hand out). Elicit group feedback on information which will be useful to a court in determining bail. Write all suggestions on white board or overhead.
Give the court as much information as possible: illustrative stories of offender’s intimidation tactics, prior crimes of domestic violence, prior crimes involving weapons or threats, current use of threats or weapons, telephone or email harassment, availability of weapons, and victim’s injuries. The court needs to know what factors make it less likely that the perpetrator will appear for future court hearings. Elicit suggestions: unemployment, duration of current employment, past failures to appear in court, past flights from officers, uses of false identities, where he is living and for how long, if he owns property in another country, etc.
60 min: Discuss tips to enhance victim safety and offender accountability:
- Craft careful and compassionate letters on declinations and dismissals
- Decide who will contact her about each step: arrest, bail, charges, hearing dates and times, court decisions and sentencing hearings, opportunities for victim impact statements, parole, and what to do if OFPs or parole conditions are violated.
- When delegating contacts to advocate, develop an ironclad method to keep the advocate informed!
15 min: Don’t re-victimize the victim. Even if she recants or changes her story at the last minute, don’t threaten her with perjury, contempt, or obstructing justice. Stay focused on her reasons as they likely reflect safety factors. (Allow attendees a chance to vent here. All prosecutors are frustrated with victim withdrawals.)
15 min: Break
75 min: Foil the defense plan to discredit or malign the survivor. Waiting until they say it and then objecting is not the best strategy; the judge or jury has still heard it and it may perpetuate stereotypes about victims of domestic violence that they already half-believe. Know what the defense lawyer might say by checking out his common practice, by asking the victim if the batterer has said anything to her about what to expect during the trial, or how he has defended himself in the past. Take note of what was said in plea negotiations or in passing.
If possible, use a motion in limine (a motion made at the start of a trial requesting that the judge rule that certain evidence may not be introduced in trial) to keep these statements out before they are made. It will support the victim’s desire to cooperate if she knows that intimidation and humiliation won’t be allowed in court, and it will help to lessen the control that the defendant has over her.
Know your rules of evidence and object strenuously and with particularity. Be prepared to ask for a mistrial with costs awarded if the defense oversteps. (Role play with egregious behaviour and questionable behaviour. Discuss.)
15 min: Wrap up. Thank them for coming. Offer to stay around afterwards to discuss questions.
Source: Adapted from materials provided by Rhonda Martinson, Battered Women's Justice Project, 2010.
A sample agenda for one-day Sex Trafficking Training for Prosecutors in Minnesota, USA
15 min: Welcome
Basics for Building a Successful Prosecution Using the MN Law
Investigations - What evidence do you need? How can you get it?
Basic preparation ideas for trial
15 min: Break
45 min: Working with Victims to Prosecute Traffickers
Understanding victim’s trauma, needs and services:
Understanding how law enforcement approach investigations, obtain evidence for prosecutors, communication with prosecutors to build a case
Presentation of current investigations
30 min: Cooperation Panel: (Law Enforcement, Service Providers, Prosecutors)
Discussion with presenters on how to cooperate to build cases – what works; what doesn’t work; what exists for communication methods; what could be improved upon?
60 min: Working Lunch: Case Studies in small groups
Identifying and investigating a sex trafficking case
What evidence would you need? How would you get it?
How would you prepare for trial? Any strategies?
15 min: Case Study Results Presented to Large Group
120 min: Strategies for Prosecuting a Sex Trafficking Case Using Minnesota Law
Source: Adapted from materials provided by Beatriź Menanteau, Staff Attorney, The Advocates for Human Rights, 2011.
Tools for training Prosecutors:
Understanding Sexual Violence: Prosecuting Adult Rape and Sexual Assault Cases: A Model Four-Day Curriculum (The National Judicial Education Program, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, in cooperation with The American Prosecutors Research Institute, 2001). Information on victim advocate/prosecutor relationship, tips on preparing for trial and working with forensic examiners and other experts. English
The Blueprint for Safety (Praxis International, 2010). Tools, protocols, and training memos for prosecutors in making charging decisions, working with victims, determining bail and pre-trial release, negotiating plea agreements and making sentencing recommendations in domestic violence cases. English.