SENATE BILL NO. 337
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 13 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COORDINATING COUNCIL.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF TI-IE STATE OF DELAWARE;
Section I. Amend Chapter 21, Title 13 of the Delaware Code by adding at the end of that Chapter a new §2105 to read as follows:
"§2105. Fatal Incident Reviews.
(a) The Council shall have the power to investigate and review, through a review panel, the facts and circumstances of all deaths that occur in Delaware as a result of domestic violence. This review shall include both homicides and suicides resulting from domestic violence. The review of deaths involving criminal investigations will be delayed for a least six months, and will under no circumstances begin until authorized by the Attorney General's office. Any case involving the death of a minor (any child under the age of 18) related to domestic violence will be reviewed jointly by the appropriate regional panel of the Child Death Review Commission and the domestic violence fatal incident review panel. The death of a minor will only be reviewed by the domestic violence fatal incident review panel where the minor's parents or guardians were involved in an abusive relationship and the minor's death is directly related to that abuse.
(b) There shall be a Fatal Incident Review Team that will be co-chaired by two members oldie coordinating Council to be elected by the Council. In addition to the co-chairs, the Review Team shall consist of six other core members: the Attorney General or his or her designee, the Director of the Division of Family Services or his or her designee, the chair of the Domestic Violence Task Force or his or her designee, the Chief Judge of the Family Court or his or her designee, the Chief Magistrate of the Justice of the Peace Courts or his or her designee, and a law enforcement officer to be appointed by the Delaware Chiefs of Police Council. All members of the Review Team, plus other individuals invited to participate, shall be considered part of the review panel for a particular case or incident. The Review Team shall invite other law enforcement personnel to serve and participate as full members of a review panel in any case in which a law enforcement agency has investigated the death under review, or any prior domestic violence incident involving the decedent. The Review Team may also invite other relevant persons to serve on an ad-hoc basis and participate as full members of the review panel for a particular review. Such persons may include, but are not limited to, individuals with particular expertise that would be helpful to the review panel, or representatives from those organizations or agencies that had contact with or provided services to the individual prior to his or her death, that individual's abusive partner or family member, and/or the alleged perpetrator of the death.
(c) A review panel shall be convened by the co-chairs of the Review Team on an as-needed basis and may also be convened by any two other members of the Review Team.
(d) As part of any review, a review panel shall have the power and authority to administer oaths and to compel the attendance of witnesses whose testimony is related to the death under review and the production of records related to the death under review by filing a praecipe for a subpoena, through the Office of the Attorney General, with the Prothonotary of any County of this State. Such a subpoena will be effective throughout the State and service of such subpoena will he made by any sheriff. Failure to obey such a subpoena will be punishable according to the rules oldie Superior Court.
(e) Each review panel shall prepare a report, to be maintained by the Review Team, including a description of the incident reviewed, and the findings and recommendations of the review panel.
(f) Findings and recommendations by the panel shall be adopted only upon a sixty percent (60%) vote of participating members of the review panel.
(g) The Review Team shall establish rules and procedures to govern each review prior to the first review to be conducted. The Review Team shall issue an annual report to the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council summarizing in an aggregate fashion all findings and recommendations made over the year by each review panel and describing any systemic changes that were effectuated as a result of the panels' work. The Report shall not identify the specific case or case review that led to such findings and recommendations.
(h) The review process, and any records created therein, shall be exempt from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act in Title 29 of the Delaware Code. The records of any such review, including all original documents and documents produced in the review process with regard to the facts and circumstances of each death, shall be confidential, shall be used by the Coordinating Council only in the exercise of its proper function, and shall not be disclosed. The records and proceedings shall not be available through Court subpoena and shall not be subject to discovery. No person who participated in the review nor any member of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council shall be required to make any statement as to what transpired during the review or information collected during the review. Statistical data and recommendations based on the reviews, however, may be released by the Coordinating Council at its discretion.
(i) Members of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, members of the Review Team, and members of each review panel, as well as their agents or employees, shall be immune from claims, and shall not be subject to any suits, liability, damages or any other recourse, civil or criminal, arising from any act, proceeding, decision or determination undertaken or performed or recommendation made provided such persons acted in good faith and without malice in carrying out their responsibilities; good faith is presumed until proven otherwise, with the complainant bearing the burden of proving malice or a lack of good faith. No organization, institution or person furnishing information, data, testimony, reports, or records to the review panels or the Coordinating Council as part of such an investigation shall, by reason of furnishing such information, be liable in damages or subject to any other recourse, civil or criminal."
Approved June 27, 1996