DOJ: News Release

Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission Releases First Report

HELENA – Montana’s Fatality Review Commission released its first-ever report Wednesday, the same day the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill to extend the commission’s existence through 2008.

The 15-member commission meets twice a year and reviews closed domestic homicide cases. The 2003 legislation that created the commission called on the group to examine trends and patterns of domestic violence-related fatalities, educate the public and recommend policies and practices to reduce fatalities due to domestic violence.

“The attorney general has appointed a talented, dedicated group of professionals to focus on reducing domestic violence homicides in Montana,” said Matthew Dale, commission coordinator. “The need is urgent. In 2004, another nine Montanans lost their lives due to family violence.”

The commission includes representatives of state departments and private organizations involved in issues related to domestic violence; medical and mental health care providers; representatives from Montana Indian tribes; representatives from law enforcement, the judiciary and the State Bar; a member of the legislature and other concerned citizens.

Among the findings included in the report released Wednesday:

  • The homicides occurred across the state, in families of varying socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • The homicides took place after the offender was convinced the victim was ending the relationship permanently.
  • Firearms were used in each of the reviewed deaths.

Recommendations include:

  • Increase the use of “danger assessments” by professionals who interact with victims and batterers. The form identifies potential risks that should be discussed when working with a person who is planning to leave a domestic violence situation.
  • Establish a system of notifying domestic violence victims when an offender will be released from custody.
  • Close the “technology gap” that limits courts’ ability to track prior offenses and exchange records with one another.
  • Improve the collection and reporting of statewide domestic violence statistics.

“The report calls attention to the very real risks faced by victims of family violence,” Dale said. “No single solution will eliminate domestic violence deaths. It will take the combined efforts of a variety of agencies and individuals.

“The commission believes these recommendations are important first steps in that direction.”

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