"The fact that she is still in jail is the prosecutor."
March 10, 2015 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Cherelle Baldwin has been in prison for 21 months for killing her abuser, despite the fact that a Connecticut jury refused to convict her of the crime.

“If there’s a court order protecting a woman, at the very least the woman who is the beneficiary of that order shouldn’t have to retreat,” Gerety said. “Fifty percent of these orders are disobeyed. The woman should not have any duty to retreat from the person who is told not to assault, harass and threaten her. It’s as if that order didn’t even exist.”
posted by aabbbiee (46 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't get how the state can retry the case? When they say "jury voted 11-1 not to convict her", does that mean mistrial?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:14 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]




In the event of a mistrial, the state always has the option to seek a new trial. Prosecutors sometimes decline to retry the case, but a split jury is essentially a non-event in terms of the legality of future actions to be taken.
posted by Lame_username at 10:16 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bridgeport detectives decided it did not look like Brown had broken into the house, their affidavit said. They mistakenly called him her boyfriend. They saw car scrape marks along the “entire length of the driveway (100+ feet).” They said, “The evidence shows the vehicle was accelerating through the scene and did not show any signs of braking.”

Sadly this does not surprise me at all. In my experience in dealing with police it seems they will do whatever they can to get out of doing paper work or any aspect of their jobs that they consider unpleasant. If you are a victim and god forbid you call the police in the middle of their snack break, you will be the one they feel angry towards for calling them- not the perp. Not all police are like this, but enough that...Man I could tell you some stories. I finally figured it out and realized that you have to record EVERY conversation and interaction with them. On two occasions I've only been able to get them to do their jobs properly when they figured out I have a recording of an interaction with them. Suddenly the paperwork gets done correctly and threats against you are taken seriously.
posted by manderin at 10:19 AM on March 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


There was a good piece in the New Yorker a while back about some innovative proactive responses to situations like this (it's tough reading, but at least it suggests that there are some ways forward to head off these kinds of persistent abusers).

Meantime, this Connecticut prosecutor sounds like a piece of work.
posted by yoink at 10:21 AM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


To protect and serve...

Meantime, this Connecticut prosecutor sounds like a piece of work.

Does he want to score political points, hate women, or he just an asshole?

He isn't looking for justice, obviously.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:28 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Why choose just one, BlueHorse?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:34 AM on March 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


This is, unfortunately, all too common. My understanding is that men who finally beat their wives to death after years of abuse do, on average, less time than abused women who finally defend themselves with lethal force.

Some of the reasons: Men are typically a lot bigger than their female victim, so while they can "commit a crime of passion" and "accidentally" murder her with their bare hands in a fit of rage, in order to defend herself effectively, she typically needs to do a little planning and also use some kind of equalizer (gun, knife, car). The way the laws are written does not account for this huge disparity. It presumes some kind of even starting point, that one unarmed human and another unarmed human are on equal footing.

The law also does not currently have a good means for dealing with the reality that there is a very big difference between, say, a drunken bar fight and a couple who have a long history together. She often cannot just walk away. If she tries, he will go after their children or other relatives -- and this is often stated explicitly by the man. This is not just some fear of hers. It is often a verbalized threat by him.
posted by Michele in California at 10:35 AM on March 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


Ah yes, that's exactly what it meant.

Uggggggggggh the comment there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:38 AM on March 10, 2015


What the hell was wrong with that one juror?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:41 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Domestic violence ... is the leading cause of injury prompting women to seek medical attention—more common than rape, car accidents and mugging combined.
So, the two leading causes of injury prompting women to seek medical attention are domestic violence and being raped. I bet most muggings are also committed by men. So that would be three of the top four reasons women end up seeking medical attention for an injury are basically assault of some sort at the hands of some man.

Wow. That's incredibly messed up.
posted by Michele in California at 10:45 AM on March 10, 2015 [33 favorites]


"men who finally beat their wives to death after years of abuse do, on average, less time than abused women who finally defend themselves with lethal force."

True. It's because the state is always more concerned about a person going against them than about a victim being murdered or beaten.

Average child molester only ends up in jail an average of 18 months before being released.
posted by manderin at 10:47 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of those insane cases where DNA completely exonerates some poor bastard who's been in jail for years and it takes a cadre of pro bono lawyers years to free them because the DA fights tooth and nail at taxpayer expense to keep them in jail. I just think there is something in the law enforcement mentality that absolutely refuses to believe they could ever be wrong, and that much evil springs from that putrid, narcissistic well.
posted by umberto at 10:58 AM on March 10, 2015 [30 favorites]


Domestic violence ... is the leading cause of injury prompting women to seek medical attention—more common than rape, car accidents and mugging combined.

Good grief, is "The Screwfly Solution" officially in play yet?
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:59 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Jesus christ, she did this with a fucking broken leg? This woman should be a hero. That they're even prosecuting her is fucking sick. Women should be just as entitled to stand their fucking ground as men should, AND SHE WAS ON THE GROUNDS OF HER HOME. The last time he took her baby she had to drive on the wrong side of the road to get her baby back. I fucking hate anyone involved in this case who thought anything but getting this woman home to her child.
posted by corb at 11:26 AM on March 10, 2015 [27 favorites]


That is an excellent article. Very glad they point out and discuss the glaring double standard:
“Battered Women’s Syndrome sends the legal and social message that women should retreat from even their own homes in the face of objective, repeated harm to their bodies,” Franks wrote. “Stand Your Ground sends the legal and social message that men can advance against strangers anywhere on the basis of vague, subjective perceptions of threats. Male violence is not only tolerated, but celebrated; women’s violence is not only discouraged, but stigmatized.”
posted by fraula at 11:31 AM on March 10, 2015 [38 favorites]


Good grief, is "The Screwfly Solution" officially in play yet?

I don't know what's worse.. how bleak that story is, or wondering how many men would read it and think "Y'know..."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:44 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just can't today. I really can't. The thought that even being the victims of premeditated assault (and his texts to her prove ongoing stalking, harassment, and the impelling threat of violence) doesn't allow women to ever, ever defend themselves is just nauseating.

FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE.
posted by lydhre at 11:46 AM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Also, lemme guess, Cherelle Baldwin is a woman of color? Yup. Of course she is. Thanks, justice system!
posted by lydhre at 11:48 AM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Does he want to score political points, hate women, or he just an asshole?

The job is weirdly gameified. There is no upside for freeing someone mistakenly prosecuted, since the office picks its own cases. Ideally they would have exercised discretion at the start, but once they're down that road...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:48 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Freeing someone mistakenly prosecuted is seen as equivalent to admitting the state made a mistake which opens them up to civil suit. This is why it is not uncommon for cases like that to include a signed agreement by the person wrongfully jailed, to NOT sue the state in exchange for their release. So the state basically tells them, we know you're innocent, but we're still going to keep you locked up unless we can get a guarantee you're not going to sue us for what we did. If they can't for various reasons get such a guarantee they generally feel they are better off working to keep the person in jail despite knowing their innocence.
posted by manderin at 11:54 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


We really need the Pink Gang in the US.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:00 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


What the hell was wrong with that one juror?

I've served on two juries and, each time, there was at least one "if the police arrested them, they must have done it" type in the room.

The last jury I sat on was a drug bust. The guy was being prosecuted basically because he cleaned-up the trash made by the guys cooking meth. He didn't even know they were cooking. But, in Indiana, if you help a meth cook in any way, you are as guilty as the cooks.

Most of us on the jury just couldn't see throwing some sadsack in prison just because he took some trash out when told to, and voted to acquit. But, we just couldn't convince two law-n-order-no-matter-what holdouts. So, we ended up a hung jury.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:01 PM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


That's incredibly messed up.
But messed up in favor of MEN, so it's the Way Things Ought To Be.
I just get more and more ashamed of my gender every day.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Much of the discussion in the article focuses on the ongoing/persistent nature of domestic abuse, which really should not play any role in this poor woman's case.
This a-hole was credibly claimed to have broken into her house, WHERE HE DID NOT LIVE.
This a-hole obviously beat the shit out of her, that very night.
This a-hole was credibly claimed to have held a knife to her throat.
(History of abducting the child aside) He did all these things and came between her and her child.
HE DIED WITH A WEAPON IN HIS HAND, WHILST IN FLAGRANT VIOLATION OF A RESTRAINING ORDER.
How that is not self-defense, open-and-shut, decline to prosecute, is utterly indefensible.
The larger dynamics and subtleties of domestic violence are frankly irrelevant to the case at hand, though it serves as a grim and effective illustration of how the justice system is stacked against DV victims.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


I mean, just because there were RAW STRIPES ON HER BACK, it's impossible to tell what could have happened! Maybe he would have apologized and went home if she'd just made him some fucking cookies FROTH FROTH RAGE RAGE.
posted by corb at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm part way reading through that, Feckless Fecal Fear Mongering, and y'know...

I'd like to sign up for a version of the DNR if I fell victim to that shit. But instead of not resuscitating they bolt a gun to one arm, hook me up like a Savlar Chemdog, and drop me into the worst of it.

Because that shit is horrifying and Im not even halfway done. Burn it from space. Or from within with people on gassified rage.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mod note: A few comments deleted. James Tiptree story notwithstanding, let's not derail further to discussing her case, please; we've had that discussion here and this post is not about that.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:11 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I find especially galling is that Tracey Thurman vs City of Torrington, CT brought around a whole slew of domestic violence reforms in the 1980's. I'm from Torrington, CT and the case was well known there - Ms. Thurman sued the local police department for violating her civil rights when they refused to enforce restraining orders against her violent husband and she won. I know it's been about 30 years but it is especially horrifying coming from Connecticut and realizing how short is the state's memory.
posted by rdnnyc at 12:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Jesus christ, she did this with a fucking broken leg?

Other articles say she broke her leg in the crash. For instance.
posted by smackfu at 12:50 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


How that is not self-defense, open-and-shut, decline to prosecute, is utterly indefensible.

I believe the logic is that if you are in a car, and have the option to run over someone or drive away, you need to drive away, and running over someone would not be self defense. There is disagreement between the defense and prosecution over whether she had that option.
posted by smackfu at 1:00 PM on March 10, 2015


I thought the whole point of the Battered Spouse defence was that you can't actually get away (not least because the cops have less than no interest in enforcing restraining orders), and that these guys escalate unto death, and thus killing really is self-defence?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:04 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


... and I as a man had killed that guy—forget about standing my ground—if the guy had come over to the house and done any of those things, he degraded me and I killed him, even though I might be charged, there’s probably not three juries in the country that would convict me,” Stark said. “And if a woman does the same thing, she has to have all these proofs—and why is that? It’s because as a man, because of inequality, I have much further to fall in terms of my dignity and shame than a woman.”
posted by Hypatia at 1:07 PM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


If they can't for various reasons get such a guarantee they generally feel they are better off working to keep the person in jail despite knowing their innocence.

In other words, the loud bullshitty braying about justice and doing the right thing and good and heroism is as much of a crock of shit as it actually seems to be. FTP.
posted by umberto at 1:07 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, lemme guess, Cherelle Baldwin is a woman of color? Yup. Of course she is.

I don't know whether I'm disturbed or glad that RawStory ran a picture of a pity-worthy white woman to headline the story.

It's well established that women (people) of color end up on the "unlucky" side of things quite consistently. So they're trying to drum up the same sympathy that one would have for a pretty, young white woman. On one hand, if avoiding her race in the article brings more attention or action to the case, well, great, because Cherelle Brown needs released yesterday.

But in the big picture it just perpetuates that same racism.
posted by Dashy at 1:24 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


This would be a better FPP if it included an article that reported what the prosecutor's arguments actually were, rather than presenting them as described by a defense witness with a strong advocacy interest in the case. Perhaps the prosecutor contended that the physical evidence was inconsistent with the defendant's account of what happened, for example, or perhaps there was some evidence that suggested that the decedent was already leaving. I don't know what was presented, of course, and even if I did I wouldn't know whether such testimony, if any, was credible, but it seems pointless to me to get exercised about this case without at least knowing both sides of the story. It's like getting up in arms about the allegations a plaintiff makes when filing a lawsuit (which people do all the time on the internet, of course). People do lie, and that includes battered women.

I should also note that, although the jury was deadlocked at 11 to 1, it appears that the deadlock was about whether to move on from the murder charge to consider lesser charges or acquittal. I don't know if any interviews were done with jurors afterwards, but I don't know that you can infer from the fact that 11 of them appear to have rejected the murder charge that they credited the defendant's testimony.

In any event, the defendant has not been acquitted; the case appears to be moving expeditiously to a second trial; and the judge has not seen fit to reduce bail. That is why Baldwin is still incarcerated. Perhaps, as some posit, there is a malevolent woman-hating prosecutor behind the continued prosecution, or one who is concerned only with statistics rather than justice, as others posit, but I think people should be open to the possibility that the prosecutor is attempting to convict someone whom he or she believes in good faith to be a murderer.
posted by Dolukhanova at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2015


yeah, maybe a woman who's terrified for her life because she's being stalked by her much-larger ex--who also kidnapped their child--and has evidence of being savagely physically assaulted is lying.

Or, you know, not.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


This would be a better FPP if it included an article that reported what the prosecutor's arguments actually were,

There is overwhelming evidence that women who are victims of domestic violence are routinely shit on by "the system." I don't think we need to know in this specific instance all the specific excuses reasons why this debacle is happening to feel sympathy for the woman in question. Had the system not already shit on her and failed her horrendously, the guy wouldn't be dead to begin with.
posted by Michele in California at 1:38 PM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's kind of amazing that you can have a six week trial and essentially no news articles about it. Here's the only article I could find between the original charge and the mistrial.
posted by smackfu at 1:57 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


That's how hung juries work. It's not the same as "not guilty."
posted by jpe at 2:44 PM on March 10, 2015


This would be a better FPP if it included an article that reported what the prosecutor's arguments actually were,

There is overwhelming evidence that women who are victims of domestic violence are routinely shit on by "the system." I don't think we need to know in this specific instance all the specific excuses reasons why this debacle is happening to feel sympathy for the woman in question. Had the system not already shit on her and failed her horrendously, the guy wouldn't be dead to begin with.
posted by Michele in California at 1:38 PM on March 10 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [Flagged]

I can attest to Michele in California being so correct about the 'shit on by the system' part of this. Also Michele in California, I am surprised there are not more MEN dead because of that fact.

Sometimes I wonder what in Hell it will take before the so-called 'Family Courts' and the so-called 'Justice System' get sorted.
My ex if he's still alive is not nearly grateful enough for just being alive. My late mother almost killed him. She had her best scissors in her hand and really did not do it only because the children were present.
Yes she would have gone to prison, but she no longer cared about prison. Literally all that stopped her was my son and daughter were present.
It would have saved all of us years of grief if he'd been put in jail and forced to straighten up and fly right.
I blame the judges for giving these people visitation in the first place.
I blame the police for damn near never seeing through these people and ENFORCING restraining orders.
By the way, if you have a restraining order, why is visitation ever even ordered? Seriously! Visitation is for normal people who don't treat the other parent that way.
Every abused woman I ever knew had to at least contemplate leaving her home, her pets, her belongings, her job. It's the ABUSER who needs the fear of SOMETHING put in him.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:57 PM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


My late mother almost killed him. She had her best scissors in her hand and really did not do it only because the children were present.

I'm so sorry.

My ex never hit me. But the topic still hits close to home for me.

My sister did not have children in her first marriage. The heap of dung that brutally assaulted her for leaving his sorry ass died by his own hand when the cops showed up to arrest him for it, or I imagine I would be serving a life sentence. Because had he shown up to assault my sister and create an ugly scene while I was visiting with my two very young sons, in the interest of defending three of my loved ones (all of them smaller than me), I would have likely killed the man.

I don't think I would have been a sympathetic defendant. I think I would have felt too strongly that I was in the right. Under the current system, that would have been a strike against me and reason to conclude I was simply a murderer, not someone acting in self-defense or in defense of people I was responsible for.

So I can't help but read something like this and feel something along the lines of "There but for the grace of god go I." I got lucky. I was living in Europe when all the ugliness went down. He was dead well before I came back to American soil.

They did test my sister's hands for whatever it is that shooting a gun leaves on your hands. She never went to trial. They had clear evidence that she had not fired a gun. She suffered PTSD over what he did to her, as well as serious health problems for years to come. (That's just the ones we can pretty definitely tie back to the assault -- no telling how much of a role it has played in other health issues.)

I am horrified that, in this case, her baby was in the house and the prosecution apparently took the position that she should have "retreated." If my baby were in harm's way, no, I am not going to retreat. I will defend that child with my life if necessary or will go to jail for murder if necessary. As noted in the article, had she managed to leave (it's also crazy to think she was simply free to walk away to begin with) and something had happened to the baby, she could have also been prosecuted for failing to protect the child.

The whole thing is just horrible.
posted by Michele in California at 3:51 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


people should be open to the possibility that the prosecutor is attempting to convict someone whom he or she believes in good faith to be a murderer

Among the many apparently undisputed facts which made me wonder how good that faith is here are her significant injuries, her state of undress, the history of stalking and threats, and where her purse was found.

I wonder much more why it is still so common for people in the legal profession who deal with domestic violence to blame the victim. Why is it so hard to see who has the power and how little recourse there is when the legal system won't hold a perpetrator accountable?
posted by bearwife at 3:58 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Because most of them come from backgrounds that provide them with no real context. And people who become cops or prosecutors often have very clear ideas about who is right, who is wrong, and have no real empathy or sympathy for people in situations that are outside of their personal experience. Basically they are human beings. And often humans suck. Thus the gamification of the justice system. With rules that offer winning and losing as the only perceived options we as a population are supposed to make sure the rules reflect a path to justice. That is hard. It involves getting a large minority of the populace, if not an outright majority to convince our elected representatives to do something other than what is important to their campaign funders. Usually they pass inane crap based on a poor understanding of the real issue (e.g. the domestic abuse laws related to this discussion) in an attempt to be perceived as doing something. Enacting laws that are based on a deeply flawed skew of reality leads to situations like Ms. Brown's. This of course leads to things like jury-nullification theory, which is a terrible idea but can feel very satisfying.

As long as the power dynamics of a relationship remain outside of the legal analysis, which they will for as long as the law has no cause to force them to be taken into account, abusers will be able to get away with far too much short of murder and the abused will never be able to get free short of murder. Lawyers will say with a straight face that a victim could always leave. With what support network and guarantee of safety they may never be able to specify because the system is supposed to take care of people so it must be able to do so.

(sarcasm)Remember if the world provides you with a wealth of opportunities, it was only your hard work and determination that got you where you are today. And if you could do it so can anyone. All those women need to do is wash that man out of their hair and move on to a better life. Unless they get killed. Then they are victims who slipped through the cracks.(/sarcasm)
posted by Ignorantsavage at 6:15 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


That is the opposite of eponysterical. Amazing comment.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:18 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was going to say: if only she had used a gun to defend herself instead of a car. But then I realized she wasn't a white male. "Truth, Justice and the American Way", indeed.
posted by monotreme at 11:14 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


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