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Jury says woman battered, acting in defense; acquits of murder

We discussed Florida's 15 fatality review teams in our immediately preceding blog post, noting that they were established by the state Legislature in 2000 to identify and optimally respond to domestic violence incidents.

A just-decided case in New York highlights the type of home environment and history of abuse that such teams are seeking to uncover and deal with before a potentially explosive situation escalates.

In the New York matter, that environment turned deadly, with a wife fatally shooting her husband in their Queens home in early 2008, after 24 years of marriage.

The woman said that she had suffered nearly 20 years of constant abuse from her husband, a police sergeant who was always armed.

At the woman's murder trial, her daughter testified that violent outbursts from her father "happened every day." The couple's son also testified on the mother's behalf.

The woman's attorney offered a classic battered-woman syndrome defense, and the jury considered that alongside the prosecution's claim that she killed her spouse to collect life insurance payments. After three days, the jury acquitted the woman on the murder charge. She was convicted of a weapons charge for using a gun in the killing, and will be sentenced on that charge next month.

The defendant's attorney said that there was relief, but not joy, in the outcome.

"The only thing that could bring joy to this family is to bring them back to 17 years ago, before the first blow was struck," the attorney stated following the verdict.

Related Resource: Los Angeles Times, "Jury accepts battered-wide defense, acquits N.Y. woman of murder" Oct. 6, 2011

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