Investigation and Prosecution of Strangulation in Domestic Violence Cases: An Interview with Tarah White and Hilary Weinberg

The crime of strangulation hasn’t always been given its due.

The prevailing attitude towards strangulation for decades was “if it didn’t kill the victim, then things will be ok.” It’s easy to understand how this crime can be so misunderstood. A San Diego City Attorney’s study shows that only 15% of the non-fatal strangulation cases had photographable injuries. But 89% of those victims had had a history of strangled.

With history, research, and tracking, strangulation is becoming seen as a crime on par with every other form of abuse and assault.  Currently, 41 states have strangulation-specific statutes.

Join webinar hosts Hilary Weinberg and Tarah White to learn about the short and long-term effects of strangulation on the human body, the collection of evidence in strangulation assault and how justice professionals can work best together to overcome special hurdles in such cases at trial.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)


Justice Clearing House Editors (JCH): Your webinar is specifically about investigating and prosecuting strangulation cases.  How are strangulation cases different than perhaps other forms of violence in terms of the investigatory and prosecution process?


Tarah White: Strangulation assault often leaves little to no visible injury, and because these assaults are specific to domestic relationships, there are usually no independent witnesses to corroborate that this act occurred.  Therefore it is essential that victims’ symptoms are carefully documented and that victims are seen as soon as possible by a forensic nurse trained in recognizing and documenting strangulation related injuries.


Strangulation increases the chance of domestic homicide by 750 percent.

Source: Bill Smock, Director of Louisville Metro Police Forensic Medical Program



JCH: You’re both involved with Maricopa County’s Family Violence Bureau. The work that you do is important, but must be challenging at times. What drew you to this specific area of justice and protecting the public? What keeps you motivated or inspired to keep going in light of some of the horrible things you must encounter as part of your jobs?


Hilary Weinberg:  I was asked to supervise the bureau starting in the summer of 2014.  I had been a line attorney in this bureau back in 2003-2004.  I was also a misdemeanor prosecutor with the City of Tucson early in my career and have handled hundreds of DV related cases.  What stands out about these cases is that our victims have often been abused for so long that what they experience daily is normal to them.  When we have a case where a victim recognizes the danger she is in and breaks the cycle of violence, it feels like a victory.  Being able to incarcerate a dangerous offender who you just know in your heart will kill his victim some day and to give the victim the time to get away from that person is a very rewarding part of my job.


Tarah:  I wanted to prosecute cases where the victims have lost the ability to speak for themselves.  I am motivated by the little victories we have such as getting a good sentence against a dangerous person, or finding a great piece of evidence that helps build a case against an offender.  It is also rewarding to speak to the family members of the victims who are eager to help them get out of their current situation and get their family member back.


JCH: A large number of our readers and subscribers are in law enforcement, but we have representation from all parts of the justice arena. Can you share some specifics of what different types of justice professionals or first responders will gain by attending your webinar? What skills or new knowledge will they gain that they can immediately use the next day on the job?


Tarah: Police/first responders will learn our strategy for prosecuting strangulation assault cases and the evidence we need at trial.  We are hopeful this will make them better aware of things to look for and do on the scene of a case involving strangulation.


Idaho Studies show 50 percent of men

who killed police officers also

had a history of strangling women.

Strangulation Training Institute


JCH: You’ve likely dealt with a lot of victims of strangulation during your time in the Family Violence Bureau and have learned a lot about how to best work with these unique victims. What guidance or tips might you have for when a law enforcement officer or official is engaging or interacting with a victim of strangulation? Advice for how to perhaps dealing with the victim? Gathering information or details in such a way so as to be able to successfully investigate the situation without re-traumatizing the victim?


Hillary: Every case is different.  It is important that law enforcement get a thorough, recorded interview with the victim at this very first encounter.  Law enforcement also needs to be aware of the medical risks that strangulation poses to a victim and strongly encourage examination by a medical professional right away to ensure the victim does not have any blood clots or other potentially life-threatening conditions as a result of the strangulation.


To view “Investigation and Prosecution of Strangulation in Domestic Violence Cases” click here.


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