Threat Assessments

This session, recorded as part of a two-day virtual Witness Intimidation Convening, focuses on methods for assessing threats against victims and witnesses of crime. Rick Harris, Senior Criminal Investigator of the Denver District Attorney’s Office (Denver DA), and Steve Siegel, independent consultant and former director of Denver DA’s Special Programs Unit, discuss how to assess the credibility of threats, resources and tools that facilitate threat assessments, working with candidates for witness protection, and strategies for maximizing the success of witness protection programs.

This event is supported by Grant No. 2020-YX-BX-K001 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions discussed during this event are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Prosecution Foundations: Educating the Judge and Jury About the Realities of Human Trafficking

Jane Anderson, Senior Attorney Advisor with AEquitas, facilitates a conversation with Miiko Anderson, AEquitas’ newest Attorney Advisor and a former Fresno County (CA) prosecutor with extensive experience prosecuting human trafficking cases. Jane and Miiko discuss various strategies that can enhance prosecutions where judges may not have experience with cases involving sex or labor trafficking and where jurors may have misconceptions or misunderstandings about the reality of what human trafficking looks like in their community.

This webinar is the first of a podcast-style webinar series, hosted by the IACP and AEquitas, that feature conversations with various prosecutors discussing foundational elements of trauma-informed human trafficking prosecutions.  This webinar is a part of IACP/OVC’s anti-human trafficking task force training catalog.

Beyond Language Access: Confronting Bias & Implementing Strategies to Ensure Justice in the Prosecution of Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Human Trafficking Involving Survivors from Latine Communities

This web-based panel explores the ways in which bias against victims from Latine communities affects the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking. Panelists address the following topics:

-Effects of inequalities and challenges that Latine communites uniquely face as victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking;
-Barriers to reporting crimes, such as bias and stereotypes held by law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and jurors that can translate into disparate outcomes for victims through unfair credibility determinations;
-Impact of bias on endangering accurate assessments of the probability of conviction in cases, and collateral consequences on a victim’s ability to seek restoration;
-Necessary commitments offices must make to eradicate implicit bias among its staff and enhance recruitment, mentorship, and support opportunities for individuals who are Latine; and
-Strategies for prosecutors’ offices to enhance justice for victims by engaging in cultural humility, promoting criminal record relief, improving training, and ensuring accountability reinforced by data. 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-03987-MUMU awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Commonwealth v. Rogers, 8 EAP 2020, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Brief of Amici Curiae in Support of the Commonwealth

In this amicus brief, AEquitas, the Women’s Law Project, and 26 additional amici share their expertise in support of a determination that Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law does not permit the introduction of evidence of a complainant’s criminal record for prostitution-related offenses. Introducing this evidence would reinforce prejudicial gender and racial biases that would inhibit justice from prevailing and increase the burden of a criminal record on victims of sexual violence and exploitation.Amicus-Curiae-Brief-with-Time-Stamp

Shielding the Victim: Litigating Rape Shield Motions

Rape shield laws provide prosecutors with a powerful tool to counter defense attempts to introduce irrelevant and highly prejudicial evidence of a victim’s sexual history at trial. First codified into law in 1974 in the state of Michigan, rape shield provisions now exist in every jurisdiction in the United States. They seek to eliminate the influence of an archaic and dangerous body of law that protected only the chaste, perpetuated overly broad notions of consent, and left victims without justice. All rape shield laws require exclusion of the victim’s prior sexual conduct unless the evidence falls within a specified exception. However, these laws have not stopped defense attempts to stretch the limits of codified exceptions in order to admit evidence of the victim’s sexual behavior. Marginalized communities, in particular, have been negatively affected by rulings under these laws. Prosecutors must be vigilant in their efforts to safeguard victims’ privacy to ensure they are not humiliated, silenced, and blamed for their own assaults.

This presentation discusses the history and foundation of rape shield laws, identifies and discusses the most frequent areas of appellate litigation, and provides prosecutors with the tools to effectively litigate rape shield motions. Presenters also discuss trial strategies to employ if efforts to preclude information about a victim’s prior sexual conduct are unsuccessful.

As a result of this presentation, participants will be able to:
-Litigate rape shield motions to protect victim privacy
-Prosecute cases using an offender-focused approach
-Employ strategies to mitigate harm to the victim and the case when evidence of victim’s prior sexual conduct is admitted

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-03987-MUMU awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

United States v. Rahimi, No 22-915, United States Supreme Court, Brief of AEquitas as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner

On February 2, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (covering Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) issued its decision in United States v. Rahimi, 59 F.4th 163 (5th Cir. 2023). The Court ruled that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), which prohibits gun possession by people who are subject to domestic violence restraining orders, is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. On June 30, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the government’s petition for a writ of certiorari in the case. If upheld, Rahimi will have a significant impact on the assignment and enforcement of domestic violence protection orders across the country.

On August 21, 2023, AEquitas submitted an amicus brief in support of the U.S. government’s appeal of the Fifth Circuit’s decision. The brief underscores the dangers posed by domestic violence offenders, particularly those who have access to firearms; discusses the importance of civil protection order processes to keep victims safe and reduce opportunities for witness intimidation while a criminal prosecution is pending; supports the government’s arguments regarding the ample historical precedent for laws like §922(g)(8); and highlights other constitutional rights that are forfeited in the context of an individual’s wrongdoing.Agriculture’s Growing Problem

Keep Calm and Understand United States v. Rahimi

On February 2, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (covering Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) issued its decision in United States v. Rahimi, 59 F.4th 163 (5th Cir. 2023). The Court ruled that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), which prohibits gun possession by people who are subject to domestic violence restraining orders, is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. On June 30, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the government’s petition for a writ of certiorari in the case. If upheld, Rahimi will have a significant impact on the assignment and enforcement of domestic violence protection orders across the country.

This Strategies Newsletter unpacks the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Rahimi, as well as the Second Amendment jurisprudence that preceded it. It provides strategies for Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi prosecutors currently facing the fallout of the Rahimi decision in the courtroom. It also provides prosecutors from other jurisdictions with ways to rebut defense attorneys’ Rahimi-based arguments. While this decision may seem to be a catastrophic development for victims of domestic violence, a careful review of the Supreme Court precedent on which the Rahimi decision was based will allow prosecutors to better anticipate defense arguments and implement strategies to ensure the continued protection of victims.United States v. Rahimi, No 22-915, United States Supreme Court, Brief of AEquitas as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner

An Organized (Crime) Approach to Trafficking within the Illicit Massage Industry

Human trafficking within the illicit massage industry (IMI) is the organized and profitable exploitation of vulnerable individuals. Interrupting IMI criminal networks requires law enforcement to take an equally organized approach, including investigating and prosecuting financial and organized crimes. This presentation provides an overview of IMI organizational models as well as strategies to investigate illicit businesses using a financial and organized crime approach. Presenters share case examples of investigations, which highlight both lessons learned and keys to success.

Tapping into Offender Accountability: Using Wiretapping in State-Level Human Trafficking Cases

Law enforcement are regularly challenged to build cases that can be successfully prosecuted when victims are unable to participate. There are a myriad of ways to build cases that are not wholly dependent on victim testimony, and one powerful strategy is to use wiretaps that can capture communications and ultimately establish the elements of “force, fraud, or coercion”. Eavesdropping warrant investigations are technical and resource-intensive, however they are highly effective in obtaining evidence to prosecute offenders without relying on testimony from victims who are often fearful, distrustful, intimidated, and traumatized.

This training focuses on how prosecutors and law enforcement can effectively use eavesdropping warrants to hold traffickers accountable and build strong, actionable investigations even if wiretapping is not ultimately employed. Presenters provide approaches to maximize resources, even when limited, to enable jurisdictions of all sizes to utilize eavesdropping warrants. Additionally, practical strategies to comply with ethical and legal obligations are discussed, including methods to minimize harm and trauma to victims and survivors.

Learning Objectives:
-Build an investigation sufficient to support an application for an eavesdropping warrant
-Define legal requirements before, during, and after intercepting electronic communications
-Litigate pretrial motions to admit out-of-court statements and expert testimony

This presentation was produced by AEquitas under 15POVC-21-GK-03263-HT, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

When and How: Admitting Expert Testimony on Victim Behavior in Sexual Assault Cases in Pennsylvania

On June 29, 2012, Pennsylvania shed its distinction of being the only state in which expert testimony to explain victim behavior in sexual assault cases was inadmissible by enacting Section 5920 of the Judicial Code, “Expert testimony in certain criminal proceedings.” The law, which became effective on August 28, 2012, is a critical tool for prosecutors seeking to provide a context for understanding sexual assault and sexual assault victims, as well as to counter entrenched myths and misperceptions about sexual assault and sexual assault victims. This article explains the prevalence of sexual violence myths among the public, how expert testimony on sexual assault victims’ behavior can help dispel these myths, and strategies for introducing such testimony at trial.AEquitas_When-and-How-Admitting-Expert-Testimony-on-Victim-Behavior-in-PA-Issue-18_5-2013