Colorado Restraining Order Case Goes to Supreme Court

March 19 2005, 10:48 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the case of Jessica Gonzales. Gonzales had obtained a restraining order against her estranged husband. It wasn't enough. He killed their three daughters. Gonzales sued, alleging the Castle Rock police hadn't done enough to keep him at bay.

Jessica Gonzales contends police in the community of Castle Rock ignored her calls for help after Simon Gonzales took the girls, ages 10, 9 and 7, from her yard in June 1999. Several hours later, Gonzales fired shots through a police-station window. He was killed in the resulting gunfight, and officers found the girls' bodies in his pickup truck. Jessica Gonzales said her husband had taken the girls in violation of a restraining order she obtained as part of their divorce case. Two officers -- half the town's on-duty police force at the time -- were sent to the Gonzales home to investigate and learned the restraining order gave the father limited child-visitation rights. "There was absolutely no indication at all that those girls were in harm's way," said Tony Lane, who had been police chief for 13 years in the fast-growing town 25 miles south of Denver. "His previous history did not show he was ever violent toward those girls and he was in compliance with the restraining order."

The Supreme Court will decide whether local governments are obligated to protect citizens with restraining orders. If they rule in Ms. Gonzales' favor, thousands more lawsuits like it may result.