Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office makes new hires
Commonwealth Attorney Jim Fisher, left, stands with new case managers Lori Jones and Roger Barton. - Courtesy photo
Commonwealth Attorney James Fisher stands with new domestic violence prosecutor Anita Baldock-Bryant. - Courtesy photo
The Fauquier Commonwealth's Attorney's Office recently reorganized in response to an increase in the number of domestic violence cases in the county.
The office created two part-time case managers, both sworn as special deputies by the sheriff's office, to handle witnesses in major crimes and crimes against children.
It has also hired a dedicated domestic violence prosecutor to work in the Fauquier Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Commonwealth's Attorney James Fisher created the new prosecutor position after a vacancy opened, and after he took a look at the makeup of the juvenile and domestic relations court workload.
"Anywhere between 50 and 70 percent of that court's docket, for which we're responsible, is domestic assault cases of some nature," Fisher said. "It seems to me to be very high, and seems to justify a dedicated position in that area."
Fisher hired Anita Baldock-Bryant, a magna cum laude graduate of the D.C. School of Law, to fill the position. It will be her responsibility to maintain early and constant contact with victims in domestic violence cases, Fisher said.
Often, he said, passions cool in the time between a domestic violence arrest and a court date. An offender's spouse would approach the attorney's office and say they don't want to prosecute, or have forgotten details of the incident.
"This happens because of the lengthy time period [between arrest and trial], and because there's no real attempt to make early communication and build a sustained rapport between the prosecutor, law enforcement and the victim," Fisher said.
Fisher created the two part-time case manager positions from a single, full-time position in the face of increasing legal challenges to witness testimony.
A case can come under attack if a witness changes their story, Fisher said, or if further interviews bring new information to light. Case managers must follow protocol to an exacting standard, when interviewing witnesses and victims, so that their testimony can withstand a legal challenge, Fisher said.
"All of those things have become so hyper-technical and critical in recent years, and under such scrutiny, that in my view, we've got to change the model," Fisher said.
The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office reached out to former law officers when filling the new case manager positions. Roger Barton, who will handle major crimes, created a crime prevention unit for the Herndon Police Department. Lori Jones, who will handle crimes against children, is a former Fairfax County police officer.
"This has been a long time coming, and we're glad to have them on board," said Fauquier Lt. James Hartman.
Eyewitness testimony has come under more scrutiny "for all the right reasons," Hartman said, and having case managers with law enforcement experience will help make sure there are no loose ends as a case goes to trial.
And as sworn deputies, the case managers can handle last-minute, breaking information, a task usually assigned to town, county or state investigators who already have heavy case loads, Hartman said.
"It does free up the detective or case agent to not have to spend several days tracking down witnesses to send subpoenas," Hartman said.
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