Domestic Violence Court Not All What It Seems

After hearing cases, judge explains to student-reporters what goes on in DV Court

By James Gloria

Originally reported on March 26, 2012

SYRACUSE (NCC News) — There were a dozen cases heard in less than an hour in Judge Stephen Dougherty’s Domestic Violence courtroom in Syracuse Monday.

The cases were not decided by a long trial with tense courtroom drama you see on TV. Instead, Dougherty decided what to do with each case after just minutes of talking to the prosecutor, defense lawyer and defendant.

Judge Stephen Dougherty www.nycourts.gov

The types of cases Dougherty hears are not exactly the cases you might expect in Domestic Violence Court.

“We see everything in here,” Dougherty said to a group of Syracuse University student-reporters after the court session.

The charges Dougherty dealt with Monday included petit larceny, assault and criminal mischief.

The cases he hears are based on the relationship between the parties involved, not necessarily the crime, Dougherty said. So if the parties involved have ever had a romantic relationship, all parts of the case are sent to Domestic Violence Court.

While Dougherty, the prosecutors and defense lawyers seemed relaxed and enjoyed small-talk and laughter, many of the men – and the few women – who were defendants in court Monday sat in silence while they waited to be called up to the judge.

This was one part of “real-life” court that was similar to “TV” court – none of the defendants seemed happy to be there.

But it was not all doom and gloom for those involved. One defendant in particular, Kenneth Holts, heard some of the best news of the afternoon: he was released from probation.

“You’re free to go,” Dougherty said, just before Holts walked out the back of the courtroom a free man.

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