To the Editor:
The most unimaginable tragedy ended in the loss of life for Amanda Ross. She was a wonderful person and it is hard not to have your heartstrings pulled by the bill carrying her name. Amanda deserved better, and everyone feels great sympathy.
Unfortunately, in this situation it’s easy not to address realistically important issues. No one is willing to even discuss that if Amanda Ross had not sought a protective order, if Steve Nunn had not been thrown into turmoil, causing him to lose his job and be pushed over the edge, there is a distinct possibility Amanda Ross would be alive today. It is very difficult to even discuss the realities that many women do not wish to cause total turmoil in the life of the person they are seeking relief from. Many times, women don’t want a man to lose his job. They really don’t want him to have taken away the privilege of hunting, perhaps with his children. Many times they want something less than the catastrophic charges that go on a man’s record and will affect him from getting a job the rest of his life. As a practicing attorney I have talked to many women who simply would like for somebody, perhaps a policeman or a social worker, to go talk to this guy and just say, “Calm down. Stay away. Leave her alone. Let’s not have this escalate. Back off .” Unfortunately, this is not an option that is off ered under the law.
It doesn’t matter that a woman can come to court and say, “Judge, I want him to be able to take his son hunting this fall,” because lawmakers already said, “It doesn’t matter what she says or what the judge thinks; if a domestic order is issued, then you are barred by federal law from possessing a gun.” It doesn’t matter the victim doesn’t want this punishment imposed.
It’s also difficult to address questions in the light of the terrible tragedy of Amanda, not even knowing how many petitions filed that are denied. As much as we want to protect those who need to be protected, we must also realize that many petitions are brought wrongfully, out of vengefulness, for improper purpose, to get some advantage in a divorce proceeding, and are not upheld once they go to court. We don’t even know how many hundreds or thousands that are falsely filed. Any attorney that has practiced law on either side has seen cases where people use domestic violence to get custody of children, to take over a piece of property, and really without valid cause. The level of proof is so low in these matters. Most cases boil down to a ‘he said/she said’ and a judge that makes a call. There is very little proof, and judges are put in the terrible position of being politically correct, not protecting rights. Most of us think we are provided protection of the law, and that only if a jury believes. Domestic violence laws are made to make important decisions in your life, children, property, employment, and your constitutional rights in the hands of a single judge that has too many cases, is overworked, hears the same stories over and over, and most of the time doesn’t have sufficient time or proof to know for sure who is right.
Domestic violence needs to be studied, and certainly there are those who need protection. Ankle bracelets are an option that a judge should have if he deems necessary. In hindsight, it is doubtful that any judge would have made Steve Nunn wear an ankle bracelet. He was a previous state senator, he was working in the administration, and his father was the former governor. The real question perhaps should be: If Amanda Ross had never sought a protective order to begin with, and Steve Nunn was still working, would Amanda Ross be alive?
There’s a strong need for a lower level request for help to be made, a request where a lady could simply say, “I want somebody to go talk to him.” Calm him down, look at him straight in the eye and say, “This could really escalate and be bad for everyone. Why don’t you just stay away from her?” in a very serious and solemn tone. This is not going on your record; you don’t have to show up in court; but you do have a warning.
Common sense can be very effective.
EARL M. MCGUIRE
Attorney at Law