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Jurors acquit client accused of pulling niece's hair

Attorney Whitney Hawke won another not-guilty verdict on Nov. 9.

Jurors told Hawke after the verdict was read they hadn't though much of her client or his claim of self-defense. But they didn't have high opinions of what the victim or the witness had to say, either, so they voted to acquit.

They agreed with what Hawke said during closing arguments: If you're not convinced you know what happened, you vote not guilty because the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hawke's client was charged in Clark County District Court with fourth-degree assault. He was accused of pulling his 17-year-old niece's hair and putting her in a headlock during an argument over her decision to testify in a gang-related shooting in Multnomah County. The uncle was concerned that his niece was putting the family in danger.

The client said he reacted in self-defense because his niece charged him and repeatedly pushed him.

The witness, a relative, said she didn't see the start of the physical confrontation.

The niece had told police officers that she'd been "hit all over," but officers said they didn't see any marks on her body or any other evidence that she'd been hit.

Jurors heard the 911 call, during which the niece grew increasingly agitated with the dispatcher and began swearing at her for asking basic questions about what was going on. She also told the dispatcher that she just wanted her uncle gone from the apartment – even though it was his residence, and she lived with her mother in another unit in the same apartment complex.

Under questioning from Hawke, both the niece and the witness acknowledged they had not wanted to appear in court but did so only after the prosecutor's office threatened they would be arrested if they did not show up to testify.

Fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor, carries a punishment of up to one year in jail.

Tags: criminal law, not guilty, assault, Clark County

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