In 1978, a young woman moved in to a trailer home with her boyfriend off of North Shore Road in the little New York town of Cuba. They had a fairly normal life together according to her statements until July or August of 1981. In 1979, she had been unfaithful in her marriage and riddled with guilt had confessed her infidelity to her then husband. Her husband began to become abusive. While she struggled to try to keep him happy and be the best wife and mother that she could be to make up for her failure in the beginning of the marriage; her husband becomes more possessive. He questioned her repeatedly about men that she spoke to. He accused her of sleeping with men constantly. He began to be physically abusive. Following Christmas of 1982 , the violence escalated rapidly.
The young wife did not know how to drive and was by all accounts visibly battered. Her mother in law tried to get her to take the children and leave with her. By this time there were two children in the relationship. The wife stated that she was afraid to leave. She stated that if she left that he would find her and kill her. There were several serious incidents of battery and aggravated assaults. In one assault, the husband took a pencil and stabbed it into the wife’s foot. The pencil was removed at the local hospital, but there does not seem to be a police report to detail the incident surrounding the stabbing. The husband purportedly took her outside and beat her head against a tree on one occasion. Still, she did not call out for help or notify the local police.
In the fall of 1982 the husband found a bull whip in a utility building on the trailer property and began to use it to whip his wife. He hog tied her with rope and whipped her with the bull whip. He told her that he was “teaching her a lesson about lying as to her fidelity.” She testified that around Thanksgiving of 1982 he forced her to get a piece of wood from the wood pile. He then beat her with it, hitting her several times in the body and head. One of the blows broke one of her toes. The wife also testified about the sexual abuse in the home.
She stated that her husband would abuse her using various devices including a wooden dildo, a lighter, a vacuum cleaner attachment, needle-nosed pliers and a hunting knife. He would tie her up with ropes and belts and beat her. On New Year’s Day of 1983, she made initial outcry to her mother in law. She revealed that her husband had whipped her. At some point during her hearing, she must have been asked if she continued to have sexual relations with her husband since the case appeal states that she acknowledged that she had continued to have sexual relations with him despite the abuse. She told her inquisitor that she felt that she was her husband’s slave and that he had at times forced her to call him her master.
His demented torture of his wife was becoming obvious. His brother in law had noticed the bruises and scars on his sister in law and had started to ask questions. The wife told him about the abuse that she was suffering and he offered to help her. He tried on several occasions to get her to come out of the trailer and he would get her help and a safe place to stay. She would only yell to him from inside the trailer that she could not open the door because her husband had glued the door shut to see if she left or had anyone come inside the trailer. She kept telling him to leave quickly and that she would not open the door. On one such occasion her brother in law left her a pamphlet that he had picked up from the battered woman’s shelter one county over. She made him hide it in some plant pots on the front porch and was afraid to retrieve it.
On Monday, February 21, 1983, the husband beat his wife before leaving for work, then on Tuesday the 22cnd, he created a new and more horrible torment for his wife. He tied her up and told her that he had come up with a way to prevent her from having sex with other men. He took an electric immersion coil and penetrated her vagina with it. The wife was able to free herself and remove the hot coil. He took it away from her and began to burn her skin with it on various parts of her body. Then he took her out to the shed and put a rope around her neck. The wife stated that when she tried to move her body around so that the rope did not strangle her, he hit her with a mallet. She stated that he hit her several times in the head and she passed out. Later that night, he forced her to put her hands on a table and beat her hands with the mallet.
The following morning, he did not like the way that she woke him up from work. His solution was to punch her numerous times and beat her head against the cupboards in the kitchen. Her brother in law came by that afternoon and tried to talk to her. She was afraid and he came back when her husband was home. He claims that he spoke to both of them about the violence in the home. He stated that he spoke to the husband and that the husband then spoke privately with the wife. The wife stated that he told her “You know, I had a talk with God, and God says I have to kill you, and he said that I have to kill the kids, too.” The wife stated that he also told her that he would kill himself after he killed them so that he would not get arrested. He told her that as soon as his brother in law left, he was going to start killing them.
The wife asked the brother in law if he could stay. She did not know that when he had left earlier that day, he had gone to his in laws and told them about the abuse. She did not know that plans had been put into action for her father in law to talk to her husband the following Monday. She did not know that her mother in law and sister in law had planned to help her. Her brother in law had made several calls to the battered women’s help line in the Neighboring County that day. He had expressed his concern that if she did not get help that she would have to kill his brother in law to get away. He had expressed this opinion several times to the woman who was paid to help the women on the other end of the line. All she knew was that when they were alone in the bedroom, even with the brother in law sleeping on the sofa in the living room, her husband strangled her and told her that he was going to kill her. Then he said that she should kill herself instead and made her describe various methods of suicide that she would use. He would veto suggestions such as pills stating that it wasn’t good enough.
That night, the brother in law slept on the sofa of the trailer home. In the morning, at 04:30 a.m. an alarm clock went off. The brother in law peeked in to the bedroom and saw the wife waive at him as if for him to go out of the door. He took the signal to mean for him to leave that it was OK. He left the trailer. When he left, the wife stated that she paced the trailer trying to come up with some way to escape. She stated that there was no question in her mind that he was going to kill her when he woke up and that he was going to kill her children. She took his .22 caliber rifle and shot him five times in the head while he lay sleeping in their bedroom.
She promptly called the local police department and turned herself in. She told them that she could not stand the abuse any longer and just could see no way out other than to kill him.
At trial, a medical doctor testified about the injuries that were present on her body at the time that he had examined her just following the shooting. He testified that he had discovered multiple wounds covering her body that were in various stages of healing which implied that she had been abused over a long period of time. He stated that she had:
“Abrasions over her left eye, on the right side of her face and on her neck. The abrasions on her neck were transverse and appeared both on the front and back of her neck and, according to Dr. Taylor, could have been caused by rope burns. Defendant had several puncture wounds, welts and bruises on her arms and torso, a contusion and an abrasion inside her vagina, and superficial burns, abrasions and contusions on her legs and feet. Dr. Taylor estimated that the injuries were anywhere from a few days to three weeks old and might have been the result of abuse or battering.”( 481 N.Y.S.2d 552,103 A.D.2d 643)
Her brother in law testified that he had seen the signs of abuse and had tried to help. He stated that the day before the shooting he had noticed a burn mark on her face and various bruises on her legs. He stated that he had tried to get her to move out but that she was afraid. He testified that he had called the battered women’s hotline.
The court had an employee of the battered women’s hotline testify and she told them about the brother in law calling several times and that he thought that the only way out for his sister in law was going to be for her to kill her husband. The employee stated that she had given him several options, but that at each option, he would just say that she is going to have to kill him. He asked if she could go to the shelter if she killed him in self-defense. The woman testified that she had told him that it would not be an option.
At the completion of testimony at her trial, the judge informed the jury that she was being charged with first degree manslaughter. In first degree manslaughter the fact is assumed that the homicide was committed under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance as a mitigating circumstance. What that means is that because of an extreme emotional disturbance, her charge was already reduced from murder to manslaughter. The judge in his instructions to the jury told them that the defense did not have to prove extreme emotional disturbance because it was already accounted for. Further, even though they had been subjected to hours of testimony in references to all of the options that she had to escape over the years, the jury was instructed that because it was her own home, by law she was not required to retreat. She is allowed by law to stand her own ground in her own home. However, the jury appeared obviously confused by this instruction in that they returned to the courtroom on three different occasions to clarify retreat. Since she was arguing justification for the murder, and she was in her own home. The jury should not have thought of her retreating at all. But, the court charged the jury that if she was in fear that she was about to suffer death or serious injury that she would be justified to use deadly force. “Even so, a person is not justified in the use of deadly physical force if she knows that she can retreat without the use of such deadly physical force with complete safety to herself and other persons. However, she does not have to retreat if she is in her own dwelling . . .” The wife on appeal argued that this unfairly confused the jury. She also argued that the instructions about extreme emotional disturbance had unfairly prejudiced the jury. Another point that she made was that the testimony of the woman from the battered women’s shelter should not have been allowed at all since it was hearsay.
The court ruled that her conviction be overturned and that she be granted a new trial. The honorable justices clarified their instruction by pointing out that at no time should the issue of retreat have been brought up to the jury since she was under no legal obligation to retreat in her own home. They found that the testimony of the woman from the shelter served no purpose except to confuse the jury. The woman had testified that the brother in law had told her that he thought the wife would have to kill the husband. At no time did the wife tell anyone that. So the Justices thought that it was possible that that testimony may have served to prejudice the jury as well.
In many cases, it is difficult for a person to understand that incidents that occur within the realm of domestic violence constitute highly volatile circumstances. A parent who threatens to kill the other parent is in effect neglecting the mental wellbeing of the child. Any act of outright domestic violence, hitting, slapping, pinching, verbal abuse, all constitute a criminal act. If they are done in front of a child then it constitutes neglect. It was not determined in this case, where the children were except that they were clearly somewhere in the residence when the police arrived to work the crime scene in that the investigator had to find suitable placement for the children before taking the wife to the police station. This leaves open the question of neglect as it relates to the wife and husband and the children. Except that in 1981 the laws of child neglect did not include any mention of domestic violence.
If you find yourself in a position that may be considered domestic violence or child neglect based on an incident of domestic violence, contact Steven Bilkis and Associates. At Steven Bilkis and Associates there are attorneys who are available to assist you, no matter what your case. Steven Bilkis and associates are qualified to handle any domestic violence needs.
Issues of law are constantly changing. A person who is not specifically trained in the law cannot begin to know what all of their rights are without the assistance of a professional. Here at Steven Bilkis and Associates, we provide New York Order of Protection Attorneys, New York Domestic Violence Lawyers, New York Assault Attorneys, and New York Criminal lawyers. New York Family Lawyers will stand by you and ensure that your rights are protected. New York Personal Injury Attorneys can argue your side and make sure that you and your loved ones are considered. We make sure that you are rightfully awarded compensation for your suffering.
Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its Domestic Violence Lawyers has convenient offices throughout the New York Metropolitan area including Corona, New York. Our Personal Injury Attorneys can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Without a Domestic Violence Lawyer you could lose precious compensation to help with your medical bills and the trauma to you and your loved ones following such a frightening experience. This is true even if the Attorney for the assailant has not adequately made their case. In addition to Personal Injury Law, Stephen Bilkis and Associates can recommend Criminal Lawyers who will protect your rights if you are ever arrested.