Every Friday morning on Talk Back, Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst provides a weekly report of felonies being prosecuted by her staff.

Pabst said she was especially concerned about a rise in family member violence.

"This week we had four domestically related felonies," Pabst said. "We're talking serious felony crimes that occur between family members and we have seen quite an abundance of these lately, and we're reviewing one more domestic case that came over that has not been charged yet. We do tend to see an increase when there are dramatic weather changes, or when it's really hot. These numbers have us very concerned, and we're looking at trends so that we can allocate resources where they'll be the most effective."

Pabst was asked about why so many cases are resolved through plea bargains, rather than going to trial.

"That's a fair question," said Pabst. "Our system is designed to reflect that about 95 percent of the cases are settled through plea negotiations, and that's a nationwide statistic. In Missoula, I think we actually bring more cases to trial than the national average. If we to take every one of these cases to trial, it would literally crush the system. You would need to hire a hundred more prosecutors, a hundred more public defenders, more court staff, more bailiffs, and then you'd have to find a hundred more jurors. The idea is to come to a resolution that will, one, protect the community, and, two, meet the needs of this particular defendant so that we don't see them again."

Pabst was also asked why the Missoula County Attorney's office no longer uses the grand jury system of charging defendants.

"Montana statutes allow charging by grand jury in state court as well as federal court, " she said. "But, it's an option for charging, we don't have to use a grand jury. It's just a lot more efficient resource-wise for us to charge the way we do, which is to file information before a district court who reviews it for probable cause and then makes a determination. It's a lot quicker, it's a lot cheaper, and it uses a lot less resources."

Pabst will provide a weekly summary from her office every Friday at 9 a.m. on KGVO's Talk Back program.



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