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Forfeiture by Wrongdoing: turning the Tables on Witness Intimidation

In this webinar, we will take an in-depth look at how prosecutors from Virginia are turning the tables on batterers and stranglers by using good old fashioned team work, solid investigation techniques and ingenuity to hold batterers and stranglers accountable. Donald Goodman and Josh Steward, two prosecutors from Virginia, will share how they prosecuted a non-fatal strangulation case after the victim recanted and asserted her Fifth Amendment right.

Understanding how difficult it is for victims of domestic violence to testify against their abusers and how often victims are intimidated to drop charges, the DV Unit in Virginia’s D.A.'s Office, under Chief Assistant Attorney Alex Rueda, has resurrected evidenced based prosecution. They are utilizing the exceptions to the hearsay rule such as spontaneous statements and medical diagnosis – as well as making good use of the long-established and often forgotten legal doctrine of Forfeiture By Wrongdoing. 

 The Doctrine of Forfeiture by Wrongdoing is based on simple principles of fairness and equity. Case law now recognizes that domestic violence cases are notoriously susceptible to witness intimidation (Giles). As such, the Doctrine allows prosecutors to shine a light on witness intimidation and introduce evidence which shows how a particular defendant prevented the victim from testifying and explain why the victim has failed to appear in court or has asserted the Fifth Amendment Privilege not to testify in court. A favorable court ruling then allows prosecutors to continue with prosecution and avoid having to dismiss the case due to the victim being uncooperative. 

 The leadership of the Virginia’s District Attorney’s Office and the judicious rulings in the Cody case have resulted in a groundbreaking published decision– one of our favorite cases from 2018. The Cody Case is a must read for any professional handling domestic violence and strangulation cases.


1. Discuss strategies for prosecuting domestic violence cases with or without the victim’s participation

2. Increase the understanding and use of the Doctrine of Forfeiture By Wrongdoing

3. Learn how to gather evidence to show witness intimidation

4. Discuss lessons learned from prosecuting the Cody Case

  Who should attend?

This webinar is recommended for any professional working with victims of strangulation and/or men who strangle.