Team Structure & Review Process

Domestic Fatality Review Team Structure

Advisory Board:

As the governing body of the Fourth Judicial District Domestic Fatality Review Team, the Advisory Board is responsible for adhering to the Minnesota State Statute and Team Bylaws. The Advisory Board is tasked with upholding the Team’s Code of Ethics; ensuring that the Team operates in a respectful, professional, and confidential manner that adheres to data practices and Team Meeting Guidelines.

The Advisory Board represents a group of elected members who have served on the Team for a minimum of 6 months and are recommended by an existing Advisory Board member; with the approval of the Board Chair. Advisory Board members serve on a voluntary basis for a 2-year term. 

The Advisory Board is responsible for identifying, appointing, and overseeing the work of the Domestic Fatality Review Team’s Project Director, and also appoints members to serve on the Domestic Fatality Review Team. The Advisory Board generally meets bi-monthly.

Team Members:

The Domestic Fatality Review Team’s members includes professionals in select roles, often embedded within the system, who are most likely to overlap with perpetrators and victims of domestic abuse. Team members reflect leadership from civic organizations, criminal and civil attorneys and Judicial Officers, probation, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and advocates from across Hennepin County and its respective 45 cities. The Team also strives to have community representatives or members from community organizations with a wide array of backgrounds, who bring knowledge and perspective apart from the professional “systems” vantage point.

Team members are appointed by the Advisory Board, with oversight from the Fourth Judicial District Chief Judge. Members serve on a voluntary basis for a 2-year term. The Team is supported by the Project Director. 

Project Director:

The Team’s Project Director is responsible for overseeing the work of the Domestic Fatality Review Team with the guidance and support of the Advisory Board. The Project Director carries out the mission and objectives set by the Advisory Board, devises a yearly work plan, leads on the Team’s case review process, facilitates Team meetings; and supports the Team in their identification of implementation and prevention strategies through the creation of Opportunities for Intervention. At the end of each review year, the Project Director produces an Annual Report on behalf of the Fourth Judicial District Domestic Fatality Review Team for review and consideration by all agencies, organizations, and communities across the Hennepin County area; the state of Minnesota, and the remaining 86 counties across the state. 

In 2022, the Advisory Board appointed Makenzie Nolan to serve as the Domestic Fatality Review Team’s Project Director. Makenzie comes with a background in domestic violence and sexual assault legal advocacy through direct-service work with victim/survivors of violence across Hennepin County communities. Makenzie has served as a liaison between victim/survivors in the Fourth Judicial District Court and across police departments in Hennepin County; she has also led community violence prevention initiatives through the Department of Justice Community-Based Crime Reduction Program to reduce serious and violent crime in the city of Minneapolis. 

The Review Process

Case Selection:

Each year the Domestic Fatality Review Team will select anywhere between 2-4 cases, and reviews one case at a time. The Team only reviews cases that are closed to further prosecution and appeal. In circumstances where a case includes a homicide/suicide where no criminal prosecution took place, the Team will wait at least 1-year before considering the case for review. By allowing a 1 to 2-year buffer between the date of each homicide case and the year of the Team’s review, the Team does so with the intention of alleviating some of the emotion, tension, and trauma exposure experienced by Team members who may have had direct involvement in the case. This also allows for more open and honest discussion between Team members during each case review. 

The Project Director uses information provided by Violence Free Minnesota’s Intimate Partner Homicide Reports, homicide records from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, news reports, and recommendations from Team members to determine which cases are brought to the Advisory Board for consideration. Once consensus is reached by the Advisory Board, a case moves through the Team’s review process.

The Team reviews a variety of cases that differ from one another based on race, location of the homicide, age, and the self-identified gender of the perpetrator. Cases reviewed by the Team often vary in range by year and are reviewed in no particular order. 

The Case Review:

After a case is selected for Team review, the Project Director sends requests for agencies to provide case documents and reviews the information. If the perpetrator was prosecuted for the crime, law enforcement and prosecution case files typically serve as the first source(s) of information, and often lead to the identification of other agency records that might be helpful in the review of each case. 

The Project Director reviews the records to develop a chronology of the case. Each confidential case chronology establishes a working timeline that includes the following information for both the perpetrator and victim: date of birth, major life events, incidents of domestic violence, contacts with various systems, the date of the domestic homicide, and events preceding the domestic homicide. Names of law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, doctors, or other professionals involved in the case are not used.

Each Team member is responsible for completing a confidentiality agreement at the beginning of each new case. Team members will then receive a copy of the confidential case chronology in advance of case review meetings. This document serves as a primary reference point for Team members and is utilized for the duration of each case review.

As part of the Team’s review process, each source document that is used to develop the case chronology gets assigned for review by two Team members; one member from the agency or similar agency that provided the information, and another member with an outside perspective. At Team meetings, the members who reviewed each source document will report their impressions, and a series of observations are made in relation to the case and the systemic responses. 

At the end of each case review, Team members are broken into small groups to review all of the observations that have been recorded over the course of the Team’s review. Each observation is used to identify Opportunities for Intervention that may have prevented the homicide. Each group presents their findings, and each Opportunity for Intervention is included in the Team’s Annual Report. Each Team member is expected to report back to their respective agency to highlight Opportunities for Intervention identified by the Team, in order to prompt active changes to policy, practice, and procedures unique to each agency that could help in the prevention of future domestic homicides.