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Washington Supreme Court
State High Court Points to Police Negligence in Woman's Murder
Advocates for victims of domestic violence are praising a Washington Supreme Court decision that they say could help save lives.
The case concerns the serving of an anti-harassment order by the Federal Way Police Department on a man who later killed his girlfriend.
The May 2008 murder case involves Baerbel "Babs" Roznowski, who was trying to get her often violent live-in boyfriend, Chan “Paul” Kim, to move out. When he refused, she filed for an anti-harassment order.
But when a Federal Way police officer served Kim with the order, the officer did not take the extra step of making sure Roznowski was safe. She wasn’t, and shortly after the visit from police, Kim stabbed Roznowski to death.
The victim's adult children successfully sued the city of Federal Way, charging that police were negligent in serving the court order. Now, in a strongly-worded opinion, the Washington Supreme Court has agreed.
Women’s law center Legal Voice filed a friend of the court brief in the case.
“The State Supreme Court went so far as to say that it was entirely possible, if not probable, that her murder could have been averted,” said Lisa Stone with Legal Voice.
Indeed, the murder could have been averted, the court noted, if the officer had paid attention to what was written right on the anti-harassment order, which said that Kim was likely to react violently.
Stone says another important aspect of the court ruling is the court’s recognition that a victim is most vulnerable when at what is called the separation point.
"A woman or a man stands a much higher risk of being harmed or killed at that point when the abuser understands he’s about to lose control over her," Stone said.
Reacting to the ruling, the Federal Way Police Department said it is constantly reviewing its policies to improve the safety of people who petition for court orders.
Last year in Washington state, 53 people died as a result of domestic violence.