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California woman says domestic abuse, drugs affected her judgment

With a serious criminal charge such as murder, there isn’t much recourse a person can take if the court has overwhelming evidence for a conviction. How much leniency will a jury give someone, based on the person’s past or any circumstances that may have influenced his or her actions? If a person was charged with a crime, yet claimed to also be a victim, could it have any bearing on the final verdict?

A woman who, along with her boyfriend, was accused of killing a woman in a plot to take her infant son in 2010, says that domestic violence and methamphetamine addiction were factors in the choices she made to be a part of the crime. She says her boyfriend forced her to become addicted to meth, and she didn’t know he would kill the mother of the infant. In her testimony, she claims to have been a victim of physical and sexual abuse, and of having her judgment impaired by the drug and by her controlling boyfriend.

Two expert witnesses testified about domestic violence and drug addiction during the criminal trial. The executive director of the Haven Women’s Center in Stanislaus County said a controlling and abusive partner would have an effect on the decisions of the person who was abused. A professor at the University of California at San Francisco testified that methamphetamines will affect an addict’s decisions and judgment while increasing impulsive actions and anxiety.

Whether the jury accepts the woman’s claims of drug addiction and domestic violence as a reason for her actions remains to be seen. However, in the past it has been proven that a person’s past can affect his or her choices in the present.

Source: Source: Merced Sun-Star, “Murder trial defendant describes domestic abuse,” Ramona Giwargis, June 10, 2013

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