Choking seen as prelude to murder

By Marisol Bello, USA TODAY

More states are trying to reduce fatal domestic assaults by increasing penalties against abusers who choke their victims.

New Hampshire and Delaware in May become the latest states to pass laws making it a felony to choke someone. A similar law that passed both houses of the New York Legislature this month awaits the signature of Democratic Gov. David Paterson.

States are targeting choking incidents because when an abuser tries to strangle someone in a domestic assault, it is a leading indicator that he will escalate his attacks and eventually kill his victim, says Gael Strack, a former prosecutor and founder of the Family Justice Center Alliance, which helps abuse victims.

Strack says states also need to train officers and prosecutors to look for evidence of strangulation, which can be hard to prove without bruises on the victim.

A 2008 study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine found 43% of women who were murdered in domestic assaults and 45% who were victims of attempted murder had been choked in the past year by their male partners.

Twenty-nine states have laws that make strangulation a crime, says the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, a program of the National District Attorneys Association.

New Hampshire passed its law after Melissa Cantin Charbonneau, 29, a mother and nurse, was killed by her husband two days after he tried to strangle her.

Jonathan Charbonneau, 32, shot and killed her in October. He also shot his father-in-law and then killed himself, a report by the state attorney general found. He was out on $30 bail after being charged with a misdemeanor for throwing her down a flight of stairs and trying to strangle her.

Her father, John Cantin, who survived the shooting, says his daughter would still be alive if her killer had been in jail, charged with a felony.

“I’m doing this for my daughter,” he says. “I don’t believe this bill will stop the person doing the choking, but at least when it does happen and they are arrested, they are put away.”

In Delaware, two state troopers who tracked domestic abuse cases found that over a four-month period, more than half of the cases in one county involving strangulation were prosecuted as misdemeanors, says Brian Selander, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Jack Markell. The troopers pushed for the new law, which carries a penalty of up to five years.

In New York, Democratic State Sen. Eric Schneiderman introduced a strangulation bill after chairing a committee that investigated a state senator for domestic abuse. During the hearings, he learned there was no penalty for strangulation, even though women who were choked have a higher risk of being killed by their partner.

“I’m just sorry it took us so long in New York state to do this,” he says. “I think this will save a lot of lives.”

Source: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-06-24-choking_n.htm

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Several States Make Choking a Felony Charge

Several states across the country are moving to tighten the laws on choking and strangulation by making it a felony charge. Several states across the country are moving to tighten the laws on strangling. A much debated topic, choking and strangulation is one of the top domestic abuse crimes, but is not considered a felony by many states.
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Those in favor of making it a felony believe abusers deserve more than a slap on the wrist when severe choking occurs, while those who oppose the bill fear the felony charge will be loosely tossed around, which is a problem when it comes to false complaints.

Prosecutors and police have long been frustrated by the legal system regarding choking cases – victims can suffer brain damage, even come close to dying, but often show no outward sign. Generally, assault and battery crimes that rise to the level of a felony include significant physical evidence such as bruising, blood or broken bones.

Experts note that choking often precedes murder, and that most victims of choking have experienced it more than once in an abusive relationship.

Nearly 30 states have made strangulation and choking (or “knowingly impeding someone’s breathing”) a felony over the last 10 years. The state of New York took the law the furthest by requiring no physical proof of injury. Instead, police officers are trained to notice other signs of strangulation that might not include bruising and marks around the neck.

There are also hold-out states where lawmakers believe there are enough protections in place for victims of domestic abuse. Many criminal defense attorneys believe the idea of accusing someone of a felony charge without physical evidence will undermine the fairness of the system. In other words, fair trials in the area of domestic violence should not rest on “he said, she said” accusations.

There is an obvious need to protect victims of domestic abuse. There is an equal need to maintain a level playing field for those accused of domestic abuse. We’ll have to see how the felony charge of choking plays out.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Source: https://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=27274

Stanford Law Professor says, “Fair to Whom?”

 

Harriet —

In the same courtroom where Judge Persky sentenced Brock Turner to a lenient six months in county jail for three counts of sexual assault almost one year ago, another privileged perpetrator was given a lenient sentence.Neha Rastogi, a former Apple executive, suffered at the hands of her husband, Silicon Valley CEO Abhishek Gattani, for their entire relationship. He was first arrested in 2013, but the abuse only intensified. Recently Neha went back to the police for help and Gattani was charged with felony domestic violence.

But the prosecutor offered Gattani a plea deal to reduce the charge from felony domestic violence to accessory after the fact, with an accompanying misdemeanor of “offensive touching.” The deal includes a six-month jail term but Gattani will serve less than 2 weeks in jail and he will have the chance to expunge the felony from his record entirely. The prosecutor described this extremely lenient deal as a “fair outcome.”

Fair to whom? Certainly not Neha. She has described Gattani’s actions as terrorism — the plea deal lets him off the hook while his actions will stay with Neha for the rest of her life. Please sign our petition to #StandWithNeha and demand justice for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

With a previous domestic violence charge, recordings of Gattani’s abusive behavior, and pictures of her injuries, Neha thought her long nightmare was over — but the Santa Clara court system failed her. Neha prepared to object the lenient sentence in a harrowing victim impact statement — but in a further slap in the face, Judge Danner wasn’t even there. Danner had scheduled her vacation the same time as the sentencing.

Judge Rodney Stafford, a substitute judge who didn’t know anything about the case, was so moved by Neha’s statement that he has rescheduled the sentencing so Judge Danner must consider Neha’s statement before sentencing her batterer.

It seems fitting that a plea deal so lenient for a privileged defendant happened in the same courtroom that Judge Persky made his special exception for Brock Turner — a privileged Stanford athlete after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

It is the judge’s job to make sure that justice is done — the judge has the ability and the obligation to refuse a plea deal if it is too lenient.

Please sign our petition to #StandWithNeha to urge Judge Danner to listen to Neha’s victim impact statement before Gattani is sentenced. With the recall of Judge Persky, we can send a message that violence against women must be taken seriously by the courts.

Thank you,
Michele Dauber
Chair, Committee to Recall Judge Persky