27 Jul ‘Kid crimes’ difficult topic to discuss
“Kid crimes” is a difficult topic most people avoid talking about.
Seasoned prosecutors often prefer murder cases because they feel they can be more effective in getting a verdict in that area and they don’t want to deal with crimes against children.
Ben Fu, director of the Tulsa County District Attorney’s special victims unit, and his team understand those fears.
They also know their services are critical to protect the community’s must vulnerable citizens.
Along with Fu, Kenneth Elmore, Tara Britt, Annalisa Muehlberg and Brittney Bland make up the team dedicated to prosecuting sexual assaults of victims 14 years old and older. They also prosecute domestic violence felonies involving weapons.
Human trafficking, solicitation of minors and domestic violence cases as well as intimate partner homicides also are on the prosecution list.
Persons convicted of sex crimes who fail to register as sex offenders also come under the team’s prosecution responsibilities.
That might seem daunting because cases are complex and demand time to effect a conviction.
But under the vertical structure now used by the district attorneys office, teams are responsible for specific areas and can develop an expertise that makes them better and more effective. They do not have to be concerned about preparing for a murder case followed by a sex crime case or prosecuting someone on a DUI charge.
Convictions prove their effectiveness.
“We had 32 separate verdicts on our cases in 2015,” Fu said. “That compares to eight sexual assault or domestic violence cases that were previously tried during a year. That is a 400 percent increase.”
Another significant point is some cases were tried within a year of commission, something previously unheard of, he said.
Victims have been told their case might be heard in court within a year, Fu said. Now it is possible to call them and tell them their case is going to trial “next week.”
Speedy resolution of the crime is a step that makes the process as painless and stress free as possible.
It’s difficult to gauge people’s reactions to speedy trials, especially those who never before have been in the courthouse, he said. But those who are victims of sexual offenses progress on with their lives at different rates from the time they are violated.
Some are ready to cooperate and go to trial, other victims need time to process.
“We are trained on recovery and trauma to aid all victims,” Fu said.
That training and preparation is critical because a case that might be seventh or eighth on a docket could move to the top if other cases “go away.”
Going away occurs when a defendant pleads to a charge or the case is delayed and is moved to a later date.