Domestic court concept gets support from court officials in Baton Rouge

State District Judge Trudy White described East Baton Rouge Parish’s domestic abuse problem as an epidemic after she and her fellow 19th Judicial District Court criminal judges huddled Wednesday to discuss the possible creation of a domestic violence court in the parish.

“Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, it’s at epidemic proportions right now,” White stressed, adding she supports Judge Don Johnson’s call for a domestic violence court.

Judge Tony Marabella, who has presided over the 19th Judicial District’s drug court for a decade, said after the judges’ meeting that 30 percent to 40 percent of the bonds he sets are in domestic abuse cases.

“It’s a very difficult problem,” Marabella acknowledged. “It’s getting more prevalent. It really is an epidemic. It’s not an easy subject to address.”

“That (domestic violence and drug cases) seems like my whole docket these days,” District Judge Mike Erwin said during the meeting, referring to his daily schedule of cases.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III told the judges there were 14 domestic violence-related murders in the parish in 2012, and while that number fell to four last year, his office continues to be inundated with domestic violence-related arrests.

“I think specialty courts are certainly something we should consider,” the district attorney said after the meeting.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Marabella added, especially if the court can coordinate its efforts with East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court — which is located inside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse — and Baton Rouge City Court.

Moore offered to assign a representative from his office to work with the judges as they study the idea of a domestic violence court.

Since 1997, Louisiana has led the nation in the number of domestic homicides, according to figures provided by the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In an interview last month, Johnson said he is of the opinion that civil protective orders are an inadequate form of protection for domestic violence victims.

Johnson noted in that interview, and again Wednesday at the judges’ meeting, that a person arrested for violating a protective order is entitled to have bail set within 72 hours of the arrest — a window he would like to see extended to allow for the alleged violator to receive a psychological or mental health evaluation.

The judges said legislative action would be necessary to extend the three-day window.

East Baton Rouge Parish’s surrounding parishes, including Ascension, have not been immune from domestic killings either.

Gonzales saw two domestic-related slayings last month. On April 17, Ronald Green Sr., 44, allegedly shot and killed his estranged wife, Dewona Wright Green, 40, and their son, Ronald Green Jr., 12, before possibly jumping to his death from a Mississippi River bridge in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Authorities are still searching for the man.

Dewona Green had filed three petitions in Ascension Parish for a protective order since February 2013 — the last on April 8, less than two weeks before she was fatally shot.

Ronald Green Sr. was arrested April 12 for violating that order but was released on bail.

Just days earlier in Gonzales, Gerardo Lua, 38, allegedly fatally shot his estranged wife, Alejandra Orozco, 36, then shot himself in the head April 3.

He remains hospitalized in Baton Rouge. Orozco had been seeking a divorce.