PORTLAND (AP) – Only 10 percent of Maine’s criminal records are entered into the state’s computer database, a lapse that keeps judges in the dark about some defendants’ criminal backgrounds when their cases go to court.

The backlog in getting criminal records on the state’s 2-year-old database may also represent a danger, especially to domestic violence victims, because domestic homicides account for nearly half of Maine’s murders.

A study by the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram says about 405,000 criminal records remain on paper.

As a result, suspects in violent crimes sometimes go before judges without prosecutors or anyone else involved in the cases knowing the offender’s complete criminal background in Maine.

The electronic records also lack details on crimes, the newspapers’ study says.

Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson said the incomplete record keeping creates a dangerous situation.

In some cases, defendants with violent backgrounds that aren’t included in available records are set free on bail, then go on and commit worse crimes.

“I’m positive people have been further hurt because we have cases where we don’t know someone’s background,” Anderson said. “It’s crazy. It really creates a dangerous situation.”

Gregory Erskine’s history of terrorizing women was unknown by a judge when he lowered bail for Erskine days before the May 13 beating of Lisa Deprez in her Portland apartment. The 42-year-old woman later died as a result of her injuries. Erskine, 50, was charged with her murder.

State Department of Public Safety figures show the number of domestic violence assaults reported in Maine increased by more than 11 percent in 2003. They accounted for 47 percent of the murders reported in the state.

“Domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions,” said Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood. “But we don’t have the technology to check into a batterer’s background.

“I can check someone’s driving record to learn how many cars they’ve got registered, how many accidents they’ve had, but when I want to run someone’s domestic violence history, I can’t do it.”

AP-ES-07-25-04 1415EDT

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