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From the week of September 12, 2002

Domestic Quarrels

Bench them: Thanks for Alan Prendergast's excellent "System Failure," in the August 29 issue. Our moronic judges should be horsewhipped, then kicked off the bench. It makes one recall Dickens's character Mr. Buymble and his terse statement: "If the law says that, then the law is an ass, Sir." Indeed, it still is -- 150 years later.

Frank Galmish
Denver

Just say no:As usual, Westword hits the forefront of reporting in this community. And Mr. Prendergast, you are superb.

I've been tangled in the court system in Jefferson County for years -- since 1994, to be exact. While my case didn't have near the severity of this case, it amazes me how the courts which you turn to for resolution (as it is the last step) continually disappoint. And they affect your life!

I will pull the plug for "no" on all the judges in this election.

Scott Pfund
Littleton

Judging the judge: It's a shame Chanda Johnson-Richardson wasn't given any respect as a victim or person. Judge Robert Crew should be held accountable for letting such a hideous crime go unpunished. He had discretion; he could just as well have pulled the trigger himself.

Susan DeFreitas, in her effort to smooth things over for the courts, can't seriously believe this new device (the GPS monitoring system that was introduced) would have stopped Michael Garrett. It's doubtful that the judge would have even considered letting him wear it.

What's worse is, Garrett is walking the streets after taking the life of a great mother, daughter, friend and an asset to life itself. He brutally put her to rest, and Chanda in no way deserved this. I feel as though a bullet ripped through me, as well. The Denver judicial system, the judge and the killer cannot justify or imagine the horror brought to Chanda's family and friends, nor our hurt and disappointment in the system.

This is our famous court system, with its devastating letdowns. We can only pray it doesn't keep happening.

Vivian Matthews
Denver

Watch what happens:Two tools are essential to effectively deal with incidents of domestic violence: The victim has a restraining order in place with a workable safety plan, and the community systems that interface with domestic-violence perpetrators hold perpetrators accountable for their abusive, violent behavior.

Success depends on both of these elements working together. While the system in Denver is overloaded with thousands of cases of domestic-violence incidents a year, it is vitally important that the criminal-justice system achieve a level of containment that tolerates no deviation from policies and procedures in place to hold a perpetrator accountable for his actions. It is also necessary that those who work to achieve justice understand the dynamics involved in abusive relationships. Control and manipulation go a long way with a perpetrator. It does not end at the front door of the home. It not only extends to such public arenas as churches, schools and places of employment, but also to the court system. Domestic violence reaches near epidemic numbers and can only be eradicated through the collaboration of the victim, the community and the criminal-justice system.

Project Safeguard is a nonprofit organization that aids women who are victims of domestic violence. Our legal advocates are available to assist women in obtaining restraining orders in Denver, Arapahoe and Adams county courts. In addition, Project Safeguard provides clinics for women who are victims of domestic violence to assist in filing for a divorce without an attorney.

Project Safeguard's CourtWatch program works to hold the criminal-justice system accountable to victims of domestic violence. This program, funded entirely by grants, is maintained by a dedicated handful of volunteers who are present in Arapahoe and Denver county courts. These volunteers observe a variety of court proceedings, making notes on victim-safety issues. Armed with these courtroom observations, CourtWatch works to educate judges, prosecutors, police and other system personnel on domestic-violence issues ranging anywhere from how to determine the primary aggressor in an arrest situation to victim behavior when trapped in an abusive relationship. Due to limited volunteer resources, CourtWatch was not present for the eventful July 31, 2001, proceeding in which Ms. Richardson was ejected from the court. It is with deep regret that CourtWatch did not learn of this or any of the other tragic courtroom proceedings until after she was murdered. It is with the greatest insistence that CourtWatch urges everyone in the criminal-justice system to work towards a strict compliance policy of containment for perpetrators of domestic violence and, where necessary, to educate themselves on the dynamics of abusive relationships. Many other women and children depend on the justice system to keep them safe.

Susan DeFreitas
Project Safeguard

Male call: In "System Failure," Alan Prendergast chronicles a domestic-violence case involving a murderous predator by the name of Michael Garrett. In this article, however, it seems that Prendergast is suggesting that each male who comes before a domestic-violence court deserves to have the so-called book thrown at him. Indeed, Michael Garrett was and is deserving of severe punishment, but that does not mean that every male in domestic-violence court is guilty of what he is accused of, much less of committing the crazed actions of the likes of Michael Garrett.

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