Schaffhausen case raises questions about violent threats

1:03 PM, Apr 7, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - Friends and family testified this week in the Aaron Schaffhausen insanity trial admitting they heard Aaron making comments about what he may do to his three daughters.

"I heard him say something along the lines of killing his kids," testified one of Schaffhausen's co-workers. "It was a quick comment and it was over."

What if you are put in a similar situation? When does language require you to act and when does it become criminal?

"You have to balance it with how it was said, where it was said, and the context," says Marsh Haldberg, a criminal defense attorney and veteran prosecutor. "But use common sense."

Haldberg believes there is an increasing sensitivity to violent language and threats especially in light of mass shootings and high profile cases of domestic violence.

"We have more of an obligation to others around us," he says. "We have an obligation to err on the side of safety more than ever before."

Advocates against domestic violence believe strongly, that if something overheard doesn't sit well you it's best to engage in a conversation or even report it to authorities. 

"You can call a resource center, too," says Shantel King, a women's advocate at Tubman in Minneapolis. "Sometimes people will call and say I have a friend or I overheard this situation and they will ask what to say or what to do."

Both King and Haldberg say contacting law enforcement can make a difference, too.

"You can go on record and file a report," says Haldberg. "Police will often do welfare checks."

In the Schaffhausen case, it is unclear whether or not friends or family who heard these comments reported them. 

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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