This realization came to the forefront as she sent a man to prison for injury to a child.
“Had we caught that (man) back when he was a kid and addressed those issues when he was in a violent home, maybe we wouldn’t have had another child injured,” she said. “Perhaps he wouldn’t be a felon and I wouldn’t have had another child injured.”
Warner said that a grant she received last year has allowed her to hire special prosecutors and investigators to handle these types of cases.
“It is to the tune of $252,618,” she said. “It is a big grant. It has equipped and set us for that program.”
The program she is referring to is one that was modeled after one in El Paso.
While considerably larger than Bee County, the El Paso office had a reported 4,542 family violence cases in 2008. Because of this, the El Paso Domestic Violence Project was created, which offers a victim advocate and an investigator to ensure that evidence is gathered to prosecute the cases and that the victims get the help that they need.
According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, 111 women statewide were killed by an intimate partner in 2009. Their figures were compiled from data from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas law enforcement agencies and media reports.
The new report says that statewide in 2009, 27 cases occurred where one or more children witnessed the death of their mother. The youngest child to be present was a 9-month-old baby in a bassinet. Thirty-eight percent of women were killed in a murder-suicide; 110 children are now without a mother or orphaned
Even though the Bee County program is still new, an impact has already been seen.
“We were getting 30 to 40 cases a month in September, October, November. In December, we had 15,” Warner said.
“That is normally our biggest month because of the stresses of the holidays and the drinking.”
That decrease in the number of reported abuse cases shows that the tide of abuse is turning.
The problem with this type of case, Warner said, is that it can be difficult to prosecute and often doesn’t make it to the docket.
“Family violence cases are normally the ones that are shoved to the back,” she said. “Ninety percent of the women don’t want to pursue the case after they heal from their bruises and are out of the hospital.”
Because of this, she said, “Law enforcement gets real tired of responding.”
These types of calls can be dangerous too, not only to the officer but to the children who live in the household and see one of their parents constantly being beat up.
“Soon or later, they jump in and get injured,” she said.
Recent changes in the law have made prosecuting these cases easier and Warner said that it is now the policy of her office that women can no longer say they don’t want the case prosecuted.
“We are not accepting no prosecution affidavits from these women,” Warner said. “I am bringing the women (to testify) to the grand jury.
“I explain to them that 99 percent of the time we are putting the men on probation.
“We are not trying to put the person in prison.”
Warner said that victims often don’t want to go to court because of the impact it will have on them and their children.
“Their concern is a fiscal one,” she said. “They have no money. They need child support.
“They have no family because of the nature of the abuse. Maybe the husband or boyfriend has cut them off from their families.
“They are in a captured situation.
“They are between a rock and a hard place.”
Since July of last year, the district attorney’s office has filed 180 family violence cases with 75 of those being felony charges.
“Half of my grand jury cases are family violence cases,” she said.
Having these cases in the court system helps, she said, but that is only the start. Many of these have yet to be concluded, either by trial or plea.
“We have met with the victims and done all the touchy-feely stuff...,” she said. “The end result is we want these men held responsible for what they are doing.
“We want these men in the program that teaches them to stop when they get angry and walk away.”
Last week, Bee County commissioners authorized Warner to hire Dawn Tarver to fill a secretary role at the Warner’s office to help with the influx of victims calling and asking questions.
“We have no way to handle it with the people in my office. It is an emergency,” Warner told commissioners.
Along with a secretary, Warner also asked commissioners to approve the use of a jury to handle the misdemeanor family violence cases.
Warner said that without the ability to set monthly trial dates, there is no incentive for those accused of crimes to either plea or go to court.
Public defenders, Warner said, have also figured out the system.
“They know after looking at protective order cases, that if they wait around long enough on these cases the victim will not cooperate at all,” Warner said.
“Once we get a jury trial docket and whoever the public defender is realizes that we have to start trying these cases, the cost to their clients starts going up.
“They are going to get hit with higher fines. We are going to recommend jail time instead of probation.”
Taking a plea early, she said, benefits the accused as they often can avoid being placed back behind bars.
“We will offer something very reasonable as a plea agreement. Eighty-five percent of them will be deferred.
“We don’t want to do pretrial supervision because the county doesn’t get court costs,” she said.
“It is better for the county to have court costs collected by the county clerk.”
Commissioners postponed making a decision of where the jury pool would come from until fees associated with calling and creating a jury could be finalized.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.