Justice in the Time of COVID-19: Strategic Responses

Social distancing and quarantine measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have affected all aspects of our society, including the judicial system. While these public health measures are necessary to keep our communities safe and healthy, court closures and subsequent delays in case processing, as well as other social distancing measures, will require criminal justice professionals to adapt in order to continue holding offenders accountable while protecting their rights; meeting victim/witness needs; and maintaining public safety.

This panel discussion, featuring Nancy O’Malley, District Attorney of Alameda County, CA; Ed McCann, First Assistant District Attorney of Montgomery County, PA; and Sherry Boston, District Attorney of DeKalb County, GA, as well as AEquitas Attorney Advisors, will provide practical perspectives to help guide prosecutors and other criminal justice system actors through the broad scope of issues raised by COVID-19; current responses from prosecutor’s offices around the country; and logistical and legal strategies for ensuring justice while social distancing measures remain in place. Topics will include (but aren’t limited to) implications on constitutional and statutory rights; challenges in processing, collecting, and testing crucial evidence; jail overcrowding and requests for bail; and the continuity of victim/witness services.

National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC)

SPARC Director Jennifer Landhuis presented “Identifying and Responding to Victims of Sexual Assault Who Experience Stalking” on behalf of the Califorina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) in Anaheim, Califorina to an audience of  sexual assault/domestic violence program staff, law enforcement, and prosecutors. 

Responding to Stalking: A Guide for Prosecutors

Stalking affects 7.5 million people in the United States a year, with 15 percent of women and 6 percent of men being stalked in their lifetime. Stalking entails repeat victimization because it constitutes a series of acts rather than a single incident and it can cause sustained and repeated emotional distress. This guide is a resource for prosecutors in stalking cases. It provides an overview of stalking and suggests best practices for prosecuting offenders. It should be used as a guide for attorneys to support their own research and for problem-solving in prosecuting these types of cases.

To Record or Not To Record: Use of Body-Worn Cameras During Police Response to Crimes of Violence Against Women

For a variety of reasons—officer safety, public accountability, evidence collection, and departmental transparency—an increasing number of police departments have adopted, or are considering adopting, the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs). While BWCs can provide helpful evidence in cases involving gender-based violence (GBV), their use may also adversely impact victim safety and privacy. This article discusses many of the issues law enforcement, prosecutors, and allied professionals must consider when BWCs are used in GBV investigations. The article describes the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration – at the local, state, and federal levels – in order to develop effective BWC policies that address victim safety, privacy, and autonomy. The article also addresses issues such as deactivation of a BWC at appropriate points during the investigation; privacy and safety considerations; discovery, redaction, protective orders limiting dissemination; and requests under freedom of information or open records statutes.


Stalking: Effective Strategies for Prosecutors

Stalking affects 6.6 million people in the United States each year and every day, in courtrooms throughout the country, stalking victims recount the fear and distress they have experienced as a result of this crime. Stalkers create and exploit vulnerabilities in their victims, relying on technology and manipulation of the justice system to conceal their crimes and cast doubt on their victim’s credibility. This article provides an overview of stalking and the modern technology stalkers use. The article emphasizes the importance of using a collaborative approach between law enforcement, victim advocates and prosecutors to assist victims and hold offenders accountable.


Making It Stick: Protecting the Record for Appeal

Having a sexual assault, domestic violence, or human trafficking case reversed on appeal can result in a re-trial with stale evidence, reluctant witnesses, and a victim who is forced to relive the case when she is finally beginning to heal. Though the appellate process is unavoidable, a prosecutor can bring a measure of finality to the criminal justice process by carefully building a strong trial court record that supports the conviction and the sentence imposed and withstands appellate challenges. This article discusses the proper creation and protection of the record during all phases of a criminal case, focusing on investigation, charging, plea agreements, trial preparation and strategy, summation, and sentencing. It addresses pretrial motions, recommends the use of trial briefs on anticipated trial problems, and explains how strategic charging decisions can result in admission of evidence that might otherwise be excluded.



Keep Calm and Understand Elonis v. U.S.

The decision of Elonis v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2001 (2015), in which the United States Supreme Court reversed the defendant’s conviction for posting on Facebook threats to harm his wife and others, has caused a good deal of concern among prosecutors, civil attorneys representing victims in protective order proceedings, law enforcement, and advocates. This article analyzes the Court’s opinion, breaks down its meaning for the investigation and prosecution of cases involving online threats and stalking, and explains why the Elonis decision is not cause for alarm. The article suggests strategies for charging and presenting evidence in cases involving threats or stalking on public forums, such as Facebook, to maximize the likelihood of a conviction that will stand up on appeal.