Slightly north of Boston, this week began with another romantic entanglement that spilled into the halls of justice. This time, it was substantially more tragic than our tale in yesterday’s daily blog. This time, somebody died. The prosecutor says that the killer is a criminal. Her defense lawyer, however, says she is the true victim, a victim of domestic violence.
Kimberly S, 30, of Somerville (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) was arraigned yesterday for murder. She is charged with plunging a kitchen knife into the chest of her boyfriend this past weekend. However, she claims that the killing of Amaldo A., 42, (hereinafter, the “Deceased”) was done in self-defense.
The Defendant, who claims to be a longtime victim of domestic abuse told police that she killed her boyfriend in the midst of another argument, according to a defense attorney and a police report filed today in court.
“Yes, I stabbed him, but he attacked me first,” the Defendant told police, according to the report.
In Somerville District Court, she pleaded not guilty to a murder charge and was held without bail. Defense attorney Maria Curtatone pointed to what she described as bruises on her client’s neck, chin, and forehead as evidence of chronic abuse.
Assistant Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan acknowledged that the couple had a history of domestic violence at their Greenville Street apartment. Neighbors said, however, that the Defendant was often the aggressor, Ryan said in court . The prosecutor also indicated that the smaller-in-stature Amado was too “embarrassed” to report the abuse.
Then, of course, there is the problem of credibility. You see, the Defendant initially told police that the Deceased had stumbled into their apartment with a stab wound. In an interview at her apartment, she later confessed that she had stabbed him in their home and washed the knife, according to the report.
However, the Defendant’s attorney insists that she is the real victim. She argued that the couple had a four-year, combative relationship and on the day she was arrested, the Defendant suffered injuries as well, including bruises and face scratches.
“She is a victim. She is very, very distraught,” Curtatone said during the arraignment in Somerville District Court.
According to a police report, the Deceased came home at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday highly intoxicated. The Defendant asked him to leave and when he refused and approached her, she grabbed a kitchen knife from the top of the stove and plunged it once into his chest.
The Defendant is said to have then grabbed a towel, pressed it to his chest, and tried to stop the bleeding, according to the report. She also called 911.
In her videotaped statement to law enforcement, “She placed her hands on her head and began to hyperventilate and said, ‘Yes, I stabbed him, but he attacked me first,’ ” according to a report from one of the responding officers.
The Defendant’s family was called to the scene and took custody of the couple’s one year old child, according to the police report.
A family friend called the incident “a tragedy.”
There were no restraining orders filed by either the Defendant or the Deceased in Somerville District Court, but both have criminal histories.
He was charged with being a disorderly person in 2002 after an incident at his parents’ Pearl Street home in Somerville. He was allegedly drunk and refused to leave his family’s home. The charge was later dismissed.
She was arrested in January last year and charged with possession of Class B and Class C drugs and conspiracy to violate drug laws. The case was continued without a finding in October.
Family members of both the Defendant and the Deceased packed the courtroom at the arraignment.
His relatives clapped when it was announced that the Defendant would be held without bail. A court officer ordered people on the left and right sides of the courtroom to leave separately, to avoid any incidents outside.
Her family said little.
“The poor girl is in trouble,” was all her father would say as he left court.
You can’t argue with that statement.
I wish I could tell you how unusual this tragic scenario is, but I like to tell the truth in these blogs. Whichever way you interpret the facts, it is a scene that seems to repeat itself.
Domestic violence is a real problem, which is why, as I have described in earlier blogs, it is treated so seriously by the justice system. It is no longer a simple assault case. I have handled many such cases. While there is usually an unofficial presumption that either the female or the most wounded is the “victim”, such is not always the case.
Either way it happens, everyone involved is usually the loser. Many complainants believe that they will have control over the case once 911 is called and their partner is arrested. This is not reality. Once the arrest has been made, often once the police even show up, someone is going to jail. Once someone goes to jail in these cases, the prosecution usually refuses to drop the charges even if the complainant wants to.
Of course, there is also the problem of a more subtle abuse. The calling of the police just to get revenge upon a loved one out of anger …even when no abuse took place.
I have seen plenty of that as well.
I am not a relationship counselor. I can tell you, though, that if you are in an abusive household, the only solution is to get out of it. In this, I include a home where your partner likes to call the police and lie about you when aggravated.
In those situation, you should leave and call an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise and defend you.
This story also brings up the subject of self-defense. Under our laws, it is legal to defend yourself, or another. There are, however, limits. For example, the amount of force needs to be equal to the force being used against you (or another). Therefore, if someone slaps you, you do not get to go get a gun and blow him away.
Likewise, the “He started it” rule does not really apply. Self-defense is there to protect you – not to give you a license to “win” and punish.
Likewise, the laws regarding homicides are complex. There are varying degrees of such charges ranging from first degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.
Either way, though, rest assured that homicide is the heaviest of charges. A conviction of murder means life imprisonment without a chance at parole. In the federal system it can mean death. Because of the nature of the charge, a defendant has the most incentive to flee. This is why it is commonplace for a defendant to be held without bail.
Therefore, if you suspect an accusation of such a crime is coming your way, do whatever you need to prepare for it before it hits. That would include consulting and retaining counsel.
Because it is a bit harder to do when you are a full-time guest of the Commonwealth.
Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, LLP. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a Boston defense attorney over 18 years. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call 617-492 3000
The full articles of this story can be found at : http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2008/12/abuse_selfdefen.html and http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1141830