The duty of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is twofold when it comes to domestic violence cases, Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor said.
First, he said, offenders must be held accountable for their criminal behavior. And second, the public must be informed and educated about the issue.
“Domestic violence is one of those crimes — one of those societal public health issues — that is not discussed, not talked about,” Taylor said. “And so as a prosecutor, I try to educate every time I come into contact with the public, because they’re our jurors. And they need to understand what domestic violence is all about.”
He estimates about 15 to 20 percent of the major crime cases to come through his office are connected to domestic violence in some way. That’s not necessarily a straightforward battery incident — it could be stalking, phone harassment or violation of a no-contact order. All typical actions of someone who’s driven to control their domestic partner.
And it’s the psychological and emotional abuse, he said, that often leaves the deepest scars — the body can heal quickly, but the soul may take longer.
“If you’ve ever had a broken heart, how long does it take to get over that versus a broken bone?” Taylor said. “It can be absolutely traumatic. And imagine that broken heart going on for a year, five years, 10 years. Sometimes 20 years.”
It’s always ideal to catch abusive relationships early and intervene as soon as possible. But it’s not always easy, he said, because misdemeanor domestic violence cases often have little physical evidence and no detectable injuries.
It comes down to a he-said-she-said situation. A jury could go either way. And by the time the abuse escalates to serious physical violence, it’s already too late.
That’s not the only problem the Prosecutor’s Office faces. With a limited number of beds in the Canyon County jail, Taylor said, he often must weight, which offenders to keep in custody and which to set free.
And if a domestic abuser is released early to make room for another — perhaps a violent gang member or sexual child abuser — the results can be tragic. A decade ago, Angie Leon, a young Nampa mother, was murdered by her husband almost immediately after his release from jail.
It’s that kind of thing, Taylor said, that he never stops being concerned about.
“I literally probably discuss that issue, minimum, once if not twice a week,” he said. “One of the things I ask the public — and I get a different answer every time — is, ‘Who do you want in jail? If I have one bed space, which is what we’re dealing with every single day, do you want the guy who’s sexually abusing his 6-year-old daughter, or do you want the guy who’s beating his wife? I can only have one of them in jail, which one do I put? It’s a no-win situation.”