Why it is important to reserve judgment in domestic abuse cases

Readers of our criminal defense blog at Patel Defense likely run across stories routinely that spotlight domestic violence incidents in which an assailant is identified, the case is heard, a jury acts and a criminal conviction is obtained.

There is a flip side to such tales, which is perhaps most notable for its underreporting, to wit: It is uncontested fact that not every abuse claim has merit. We duly note on our website — and from long-tenured experience — that, “In many cases, domestic violence charges are exaggerated.” In some contested divorce matters, for example, “one spouse can exaggerate a domestic abuse situation to win a future custody battle.”

Such outcomes are not spotlighted to minimize the unquestionably serious problem of family abuse across the United States. Rather, they are passed along only because they are true and necessitate this very important mindset in any domestic violence matter: the reservation of judgment until all the material facts are known.

Here is a recent on-point case that is directly relevant to the above paragraphs. A businessman was accused by his wife last year of abusing her. A city prosecutor acted upon that information, bringing the man to trial and obtaining a criminal conviction.

There was a problem with that, namely this: the man was innocent, and the prosecutor knew it early on; in fact, she charged the wife with filing a false report even before she brought the man to trial.

And she never passed along the exculpatory evidence to his attorneys.

That was manifestly bad faith, the man contends. He recently filed a notice — in the wake of his conviction being vacated — seeking state bar review of the prosecutor’s misconduct, which that organization says it will review. Additionally, he is demanding a $5 million settlement from the city.

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