State’s attorney explains information that can be given during an ongoing investigation

Pennington County's States Attorney explains what information involving a crime can be given to...
Pennington County's States Attorney explains what information involving a crime can be given to family members.(MGN)
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 7:39 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - A Buzzfeed News article brought to light what they claim is an ongoing issue in Rapid City, the brushing off of cases involving transgender or gender nonconforming individuals.

The article goes on to claim that transgender people are more likely to be victims of violence. It also states that family members of a Rapid City transgender woman, who was found dead, are frustrated that justice hasn’t been served.

One Rapid City woman says she doesn’t believe this case is getting the same attention as others.

”I guess accountability knowing that if we know the information and see that as an active investigation that they are pursuing it equally like they would any other crime that would help the family and the community feel safer and feel better knowing that those measures are being taken,” said Black Hills Center for Equality board member Toni Diamond.

Diamond added that keeping information away from the public and victims’ families is what often happens in the trans community.

“Sadly, this happens in most cases. For example, a transgender person or a two-spirit person when their death is reported it’s not reported properly,” explained Diamond. “Getting accurate information is hard. Sadly, there are probably more deaths and assaults that have happened in the community that isn’t reported because of lack of proper statistics reporting it.”

We reached out to the Pennington County State’s Attorney to get more information on how the process works, and why certain information is kept from public records.

”While people don’t necessarily think of it this way, we have an obligation to the entire community, not just the victim but also to an accused and one of the things that is forbidden for us is to attempt to manipulate the potential jury panel,” explained Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo. “Let’s say we get to a point where a case can be proved and we’ve decided to bring charges. Even under those circumstances, we will not talk about the details of the case because that could be viewed as attempting to prejudice the jury panel from which were going to draw.”

When it comes to keeping a victim’s family informed the same rules apply.

“There are victim advocates that are assigned to families or victims themselves during the pendency of an investigation. So an investigator is not going to call up and go ‘hey, we got a confession’ or ‘hey, we found a gun’, that’s normally not going to happen because that relates to the investigation. Anything that goes out about that could be viewed as an attempt to influence a jury panel,” explained Vargo.

He added victims’ families are not kept in the dark as they are paired with the advocate who is in charge of giving the family updates on where the investigation is, but not sharing specific results that come out of those updates.

“The victim advocate will generally fill them in on ‘we still have more interviews we have to do, there’s still more testing to be done’ whatever the case may be or another example, ‘we expect that our last DNA test will come in in the next couple of weeks.’ So, we try to keep them apprised of where the investigation is but not the results of the investigation,” said Vargo.