Domestic Violence in Knox County
Knox County Prosecuting Attorney William Alberty, like other prosecutors, prefers domestic violence victims testify in court to put abusers behind bars.
Alberty refused an on-camera interview with Target 8. One victim's advocate, Cathy Murphy, said legal authorities don't understand the psychological trauma felt by domestic violence victims.
"They may file ex-partes and then drop them out of fear," she explained. "They may have done that several times, and then judges or prosecuting attorneys don't want to help them. They don't recognize why a woman doesn't leave."
The director of the Victims Service Agency assigned to Knox County, Kim Lebaron, noted Alberty is only a part-time prosecutor.
"That is a big problem in all of our small communities because most counties have part-time prosecutors," she said. "And so once you become the prosecutor, you have a part-time salary that you are paid for being the prosecutor but you are no longer able to take any criminal defense work. And so now you are dependent on probate sorts of things and divorces. So we do curtail their ability to really make a living as an attorney."
Victims in neighboring Adair County decided to do something about the low priority the legal system assigned to domestic violence cases.
"We had a group of citizens who worked really hard to get onto our ballot that we've elected our prosecutor to be a full-time prosecutor from parttime," said Lebaron. "And, I'll tell you it's made all the difference in the world in this county."
Information from the office of the state courts administrator showed Alberty has taken only 11 domestic abuse cases to court since 1999. He dropped charges in four cases, the court dismissed three cases, and four ended in guilty pleas.
"It just doesn't happen that often in Knox County that we have anyone who is in that part of the process, where they are trying to get something into court, where they are trying to get charges filed," Lebaron added. "I think people just feel so frustrated because it hasn't happened in so long that they have just given up."
Alberty is running unopposed in the next election to become Knox County presiding judge.