Saturday, October 10, 2009

Astor's conviction: Deterrent to abuse of the elderly

During the long months of testimony in the Astor trial, as the courtroom emptied of spectators and the headlines shrunk, prosecutors and other professionals involved in elder abuse cases were still paying close attention. In fact, some were biting their fingernails, especially as the jury's deliberations grew heated and stretched to 12 days.

"I've been very worried about it," confessed Lori Stiegel, senior attorney at the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging. If the prosecutors, including the head of the Manhattan District Attorney's pioneering elder abuse unit, had failed to win a conviction, she said, "it could have been perceived as reinforcing the notion that these cases are just too difficult to bring and that juries will have trouble understanding the issues."

Around the country, a growing number of district attorneys' offices — Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Brooklyn — have set up elder abuse units on the theory that specialization can help them uncover and fight these particularly thorny cases. (Manhattan's unit, dating to 1992, is among the oldest.)[...]

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