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Domestic violence charge dismissed following hung jury

Attorney Allison Widney had a case of violating a domestic violence no-contact order dismissed Oct. 6. The prosecutor opted to dismiss rather than go to trial a second time.

The first trial in Clark County District Court ended in a mistrial because the six jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict.

As an assistant Vancouver city attorney noted in court records, he was dismissing the misdemeanor charge for “judicial economy” because the first trial resulted in a hung jury and the victim said he didn’t want the case to be prosecuted.

Widney’s client has a history of mental illness, and was under court order not to bother his stepfather.

However, the domestic violence no-contact order, signed in 2010 by a Superior Court judge, was unusual. The order, which remains in effect until 2020, doesn’t preclude Widney’s client from being within 500 feet of his mother’s and stepfather’s home. That standard provision was scribbled out. Instead, the client was told he could go to his mother’s and stepfather’s home, but he just wasn’t supposed to contact his stepfather.

During pretrial interviews, the client’s mother and stepfather acknowledged that there had been times that they didn’t call 911 even when there was a violation of the order.

On the day Widney’s client was arrested, the stepfather told officers that he initiated the contact with his stepson, who’d been talking to his mother. The stepfather called 911 because he was concerned about his stepson’s mental health.

The mother testified that the no-contact order was vague and confusing. She said on the day police were called, her son had gotten excited about something and wouldn’t calm down, so her husband approached him in a threatening manner and her son left. She told jurors she’s not sure her son even really understands the no-contact order.

It was not a black-and-white case, Widney argued to jurors. The oddly-written no-contact order had created a gray area. Her client went where he was legally allowed to go, and didn’t initiate the contact with his stepfather, so he wasn’t knowingly in violation of the no-contact order.

Tags: criminal law, domestic violence, Clark County

Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
Vancouver Defenders