She spent nine days in jail for a murder she didn’t commit. But much worse was the possibility that she would spend the rest of her life behind bars for it. Now the woman who was charged with homicide after her boyfriend committed suicide is asking a court for justice.
Sound like a drama you might see on a Raleigh TV station? That might be, but this case is currently unfolding in Dallas, Texas.
Back in 2010, the woman’s boyfriend, 30, shot himself in the head with a 9mm Beretta handgun. He was home at the time, apparently drunk on vodka.
The woman was in the bathroom when she heard a shot.
She called 911.
Police officers arrived, including a detective who was told by a cop that the man had died of a gunshot wound to the right side of his head.
A medical examiner’s agent at the scene and an ER doctor agreed: the wound was apparently self-inflicted.
The man’s friends told the detective that he was sometimes “stupid”; mixing alcohol and careless gun play together.
The man’s blood-alcohol content at the time of his death was more than double the legal driving limit.
But the detective apparently told the man’s friends that the fatal shot was to the back of the head. And he reportedly told the medical examiner who carried out the autopsy that the woman had blood spatter on her clothing.
That conversation with the detective convinced the examiner to make a crucial change: the manner of death went from suicide to homicide.
A month after her boyfriend’s suicide, the woman was charged with his murder and then held in jail nine days. But a grand jury later decided against indicting her for the crime.
Today, she says in her federal civil suit that the arrest, jail-time and prospect of life behind bars caused “extreme emotional and mental anguish.”
While experts say the woman has an uphill climb in her lawsuit, the larger point is that sometimes police officers get it wrong. Sometimes they examine evidence and come to an incorrect conclusion, putting innocent people through the trauma of arrest and the ordeal of pondering life behind bars.
In those cases, an experienced criminal defense attorney can carefully examine the details of the alleged crime, as well as the circumstances of the arrest and the processes of police and prosecutors leading to the arrest. In that way, they can work to protect the freedom of those falsely accused.
Source: Dallas Morning News, “Dallas woman arrested in murder takes false-arrest suit to court,” Dec. 1, 2013