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Prosecutorial DV Psychosis

Negotiating with prosecutors in domestic violence cases can be impossible, as the mere filing of such a case somehow instantly cements in their minds the roles each person involved the case must play. Fairly often, no amount of rational argument or actual evidence is capable of overcoming that. Even otherwise reasonable prosecutors end up absolutely convinced of their position despite overwhelming cause for doubt. This fascinating but also disturbing loss of contact with reality is something I like to call “prosecutorial DV psychosis.”

Let’s start with a hypothetical domestic violence situation where there’s a recanting victim. A girlfriend called the police one night and said her boyfriend broke her cell phone. They were both drunk, and the phone was broken. The boyfriend got angry talking to police but denied it, and the cops cited him with a domestic violence criminal damage charge. The following morning, the now-sober girlfriend said it never happened. She said she was wasted and threw the phone at her boyfriend.

Victims always recant.

The psychotic prosecutor will not believe the recantation for one second. They believe that only the initial accusation is true. At this point, you explain that the girlfriend has accused him of similar conduct a dozen times, and that each time she admitted she lied.

Like I said, victims always recant. Your client might have gotten away with it before, but not this time.

Perhaps you go on to point out she’d done the same in the past to other boyfriends.

See? Victims always recant. They also tend to go from one abuser to another. Maybe we’ll look into charging those other abusive bastards too.

You then try to explain that she also sent your client an email before the incident saying she’d say whatever it takes to make him pay for cheating on her.

That doesn’t mean whatever she’d say didn’t actually happen.

You provide more and more emails showing the same thing prior to her other allegations.

You’ll have to have something better than that.

Feeling a little irritated, you pull out an email from her apologizing for hitting him and breaking his phone from before she began accusing him of doing the same. You also provide the prosecutor with a police report from that incident, and a case number and documents showing she pled guilty to doing it and took classes for it.

Victims can be abusers too. That doesn’t make what your scumbag client did any better.

Beginning to realize the prosecutor might need a different sort of evidence to believe that the girlfriend is lying, you provide statements from witness who saw the altercation and agree that the girlfriend got too drunk and threw her phone at her boyfriend.

Deniers. They disgust me as much as your client disgusts me.

You try to explain that they are mutual friends of your client and the victim, and that they have no reason to lie about what they saw.

Enablers never have a good reason to do what they do. Sickos.

It’s never until the very end of your discussion that you finally begin to see that nothing is going to change the mind of an afflicted prosecutor. You hold onto a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, a little more evidence will finally make a difference. You ask if there is anything that will convince the prosecutor to just dismiss the case and save everyone an enormous waste of time.

If you think I’m going to dismiss this, you’re crazy. I do these cases all the time. Your guy is going down.

They always say it with a chuckle, like the idea of dismissing a case where they have no reasonable likelihood of conviction is unthinkable. And it’s at that point that you can finally make the diagnosis. That’s because prosecutorial DV psychosis, like psychosis generally, is a diagnosis of exclusion. Unfortunately, unlike any other psychosis I know of, it only negatively affects people other than the prosecutor who has it.

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