The dismal conviction rate for domestic violence cases in Toledo suggests the need for greater protection of victims and greater accountability for offenders. A few changes in how the criminal justice system handles such cases could help.
Independent Advocates, a local watchdog group, reviewed 1,916 misdemeanor domestic-violence cases that came before Toledo Municipal Court judges last year. Only 13 percent ended in conviction, the group reported, while 82 percent of the cases were dismissed or reduced to lesser charges.
In response, Municipal Court Judge Allen McConnell said the conviction rate depends largely on victims' cooperation. He said victims in domestic-violence victims cases on his docket appear in court only about 25 percent of the time.
Independent Advocates proposes useful, no-cost changes in the way the court handles domestic-violence cases. They include separate waiting rooms for victims and defendants, use of video equipment when a victim is too scared to face a defendant, and review of the threat defendants pose before bond is set.
Fear of more violence and doubt about the court's ability to stop it often prevent victims from seeking justice. Putting them at ease with the process and making greater efforts to protect them could lead to more convictions.