Since 2009, the Office of the Attorney General and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence have co-chaired the Statewide Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. The purpose of the team is to identify systemic gaps and recommend changes to help survivors and their children stay safe, and to hold perpetrators accountable for their violence. The team meets for four days annually and conducts a comprehensive review of a domestic violence related homicide with the goal of closing system gaps and ultimately preventing these tragic deaths. Team membership is comprised of representatives from various entities that have contact with survivors, their children and perpetrators such as the court system, law enforcement, probation, parole, faith-based organizations, certified domestic violence centers, legal providers, healthcare providers and the defense bar.
Florida is one of few states to have both a Statewide Fatality Review team and local teams that review domestic violence fatalities occurring in their communities. Operating from a “no blame, no shame” philosophy, all teams function in accordance with statutory mandates to maintain confidentiality of the identity of a victim of domestic violence or the identity of the children of the victim and uphold public records exemptions when reviewing fatality related information. The Statewide Domestic Fatality Review Team prepares an annual report that summarizes the data collected by 24 local teams and offers recommendations for changes to the service delivery system.
In recognition of the importance of the fatality review process in domestic violence homicides, the United States Justice Department, Office of Violence Against Women awarded a three year grant in 2014 to the Department of Children and Families. This grant enables FCADV to provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to local fatality review teams to enhance their review practices and increase their knowledge base on domestic violence in order to maintain these community collaborations. Since the inception of the grant the following activities have occurred:
- One new team has been activated and three inactive teams are reviewing cases again.
- Four trainings have been conducted on Risks Factors for Domestic Violence Homicide.
- The data collection tool used by local teams has been updated to include additional demographic data and nationally recognized risk factors.
Statewide Fatality Review Team’s 2016 Recommendations Status Update
Florida's Local Fatality Review Teams
Florida has 24 active local domestic violence fatality review teams. Upon completion of a fatality review, teams enter information collected into a data base, which then is analyzed for the annual report. Teams are currently active in the following counties: Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Broward, Collier, Duval, Escambia, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie, Osceola, Okeechobee, Lee, Leon, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole and St. Johns.
Fatality review teams are governed by Chapter 741, Florida Statutes. The statutes define a domestic violence fatality review team, and provide guidance on membership and the types of cases reviewed by the teams.
741.316 Domestic violence fatality review teams; definition; membership; duties.—
(1) As used in this section, the term “domestic violence fatality review team” means an organization that includes, but is not limited to, representatives from the following agencies or organizations:
(a) Law enforcement agencies.
(b) The state attorney.
(c) The medical examiner.
(d) Certified domestic violence centers.
(e) Child protection service providers.
(f) The office of court administration.
(g) The clerk of the court.
(h) Victim services programs.
(i) Child death review teams.
(j) Members of the business community.
(k) County probation or corrections agencies.
(l) Any other persons who have knowledge regarding domestic violence fatalities, nonlethal incidents of domestic violence, or suicide, including research, policy, law, and other matters connected with fatal incidents.
(m) Other representatives as determined by the review team.
(2) A domestic violence fatality review team may be established at a local, regional, or state level in order to review fatal and near-fatal incidents of domestic violence, related domestic violence matters, and suicides. The review may include a review of events leading up to the domestic violence incident, available community resources, current laws and policies, actions taken by systems and individuals related to the incident and the parties, and any information or action deemed relevant by the team, including a review of public records and records for which public records exemptions are granted. The purpose of the teams is to learn how to prevent domestic violence by intervening early and improving the response of an individual and the system to domestic violence. The structure and activities of a team shall be determined at the local level. The team may determine the number and type of incidents it wishes to review and shall make policy and other recommendations as to how incidents of domestic violence may be prevented.
(3)(a) There may not be any monetary liability on the part of, and a cause of action for damages may not arise against, any member of a domestic violence fatality review team or any person acting as a witness to, incident reporter to, or investigator for a domestic violence fatality review team for any act or proceeding undertaken or performed within the scope of the functions of the team, unless such person acted in bad faith, with malicious purpose, or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property.
(b) This subsection does not affect the provisions of s. 768.28.
(4) All information and records acquired by a domestic violence fatality review team are not subject to discovery or introduction into evidence in any civil or criminal action or administrative or disciplinary proceeding by any department or employing agency if the information or records arose out of matters that are the subject of evaluation and review by the domestic violence fatality review team. However, information, documents, and records otherwise available from other sources are not immune from discovery or introduction into evidence solely because the information, documents, or records were presented to or reviewed by such a team. A person who has attended a meeting of a domestic violence fatality review team may not testify in any civil, criminal, administrative, or disciplinary proceedings as to any records or information produced or presented to the team during meetings or other activities authorized by this section. This subsection does not preclude any person who testifies before a team or who is a member of a team from testifying as to matters otherwise within his or her knowledge.
(5) The domestic violence fatality review teams are assigned to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence for administrative purposes.
History.—s. 1, ch. 2000-220; s. 2, ch. 2008-112; s. 1, ch. 2010-36; s. 11, ch. 2012-1
741.3165 Certain information exempt from disclosure.
- (1)(a) Any information that is confidential or exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution and that is obtained by a domestic violence fatality review team conducting activities as described in s. 741.316 shall retain its confidential or exempt status when held by a domestic violence fatality review team.
- (b) Any information contained in a record created by a domestic violence fatality review team pursuant to s. 741.316 that reveals the identity of a victim of domestic violence or the identity of the children of the victim is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.
- (2) Portions of meetings of any domestic violence fatality review team regarding domestic violence fatalities and their prevention, during which confidential or exempt information, the identity of the victim, or the identity of the children of the victim is discussed, are exempt from s. 286.011 and s. 24(b), Art. I of the State Constitution.
- History.—s. 1, ch. 2000-219; s. 1, ch. 2005-212; s. 160, ch. 2008-4; s. 1, ch. 2010-43.
Statewide Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team’s Faces of Fatality Report
Florida Local Reports
As well as contributing to Faces of Fatality Report each year, some local fatality review teams also compile a report of their finding for their local coordinated community response efforts. Below is a sample of those reports.
National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative (NDVFRI)
2013 NDVFRI newsletter
National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women
Lethality Assessment Tools: A Critical Analysis
National Institute of Justice Journal Issue No. 250, November 2003: Intimate Partner Homicide
Articles in this issue include:
- Intimate Partner Homicide: An Overview by Margaret A. Zahn
- How Can Practitioners Help an Abused Woman Lower Her Risk of Death? by Carolyn Rebecca Block
- Risky Mix: Drinking, Drug Use, and Homicide by Phyllis Sharps, Jacquelyn C. Campbell, Doris Campbell, Faye Gary, and Daniel Webster
- Assessing Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Homicide by Jacquelyn C. Campbell, Daniel Webster, Jane Koziol-McLain, Carolyn Rebecca Block, Doris Campbell, Mary Ann Curry, Faye Gary, Judith McFarlane, Carolyn Sachs, Phyllis Sharps, Yvonne Ulrich, and Susan A. Wilt
- Do Domestic Violence Services Save Lives? by Laura Dugan, Daniel S. Nagin, and Richard Rosenfeld
- Reviewing Domestic Violence Deaths by Neil Websdale
Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence 2013 Statewide Domestic Violence Fatality Review Report
Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
New York State Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Montana Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission
Virginia Department of Health- Domestic Violence Fatality Review
Family & Intimate Partner Violence Fatality Review Team Protocol and Resource Manual 3rd Edition, December 2009 Virginia Department of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board 2013 Annual Report
Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence Fatality Review
This project was supported by Grant No. 2014-WE-AX-0012 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women or the Florida Department of Children and Families.