Anderson, Spencer win felony DV trial
Attorneys Neil Anderson and Marina Spencer won an acquittal March 9 in Clark County Superior Court for a client charged with trying to strangle his girlfriend.
A 12-member jury deliberated an hour before returning a “not guilty” verdict on two charges of domestic violence.
The client was charged with assault in the second degree, a felony, and assault in the fourth degree, a gross misdemeanor. Had he been convicted he would have received a minimum sentence of three months in jail, and a maximum sentence of nine months in jail.
The client, 41, has no criminal history.
On Nov. 27, 2020, he called 911 and told the dispatcher that his girlfriend had hit him during an argument and he needed her to leave the house. The alleged victim called 911 after he called. She told the dispatcher, after a few minutes, her boyfriend grabbed her hand and neck.
Responding officers from the Vancouver Police Department arrested our client after speaking to his girlfriend, who claimed her boyfriend had grabbed her around her neck and tightened his grip during an argument about money. She said she had not been able to breathe for 30 seconds, and had been scared. She was crying when she spoke to officers.
An officer took photographs of the woman’s neck, which he said appeared to be red and consistent with her description of what happened. The officer also noted she had two bloody scratch marks on her hand.
At trial, however, the alleged victim said she was the aggressor in the incident. She said she prevented her boyfriend from leaving the residence after the argument. English is not her first language, and she said officers must have been confused when she told them what happened. The word for “neck” is similar to the word for “wrist” in her native language, and she said her boyfriend only grabbed her hand to get her off him when he was trying to get away.
The client testified that he tried to walk away during the argument and his girlfriend kept chasing him around the residence.
According to the jurors who stayed after the verdict and spoke with attorneys, they thought both the client and the alleged victim were lying about what happened. They also said the prosecutor did not meet his burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
They also were not impressed with testimony from the two police officers.
They felt one officer made it clear through his attitude on the witness stand that he thought it was a waste of his time to have to testify. They were critical of the other officer for taking terrible photographs of the alleged victim. If she did have any redness on her neck, it was not reflected in the photographs.
As Anderson said in his closing argument, there’s no physical evidence that the alleged victim was strangled or choked.
“The only evidence the state has submitted are these photographs, which don’t show any injuries,” he said.
The jury, after deciding the client was not guilty of second-degree assault, could have found him guilty of the lesser charge of fourth-degree assault but acquitted him of that charge as well.
Tags: criminal law, not guilty, assault, domestic violence, Clark County