Thursday, June 1, 2006

Modesto, California

From of June 1, 2006
Abused woman acquitted of murdering husband after second trial

Surrounded by family members wearing bright yellow T-shirts emblazoned with her picture, Cheryl Orange was teary-eyed and beaming Thursday, talking about the joy of holding the 10 grandchildren born during the 21 years she spent in jail for killing her abusive husband.

She walked out of Stanislaus County Public Safety Center on Thursday, a day after she was acquitted by a jury that was able to rehear her murder case under a law that grants new trials to battered women.

"I'm finally truly free," Orange said, adding that one of the first things she was looking forward to was a big French toast breakfast. "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus."

Orange, 52, was the first woman to receive an acquittal during a second trial granted by the 2001 law, which allows victims of domestic violence who kill their partners to present evidence of the abuse in court, lawyers said.

"It was certainly disappointing," said prosecutor Carol Shipley. "It was very emotional. What she went through was detailed graphically. Anyone listening to that would've been upset by it. ... We presented evidence that she was as violent as he was, but the jury felt she should be acquitted."

In 1985, Orange was charged with murdering her husband, Frank Orange. She shot him six times with a stolen rifle, but claimed she'd been acting in self-defense. When the jury couldn't reach a verdict, she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 17 years to life.

At the time, her lawyer couldn't introduce evidence that she was in a dangerous relationship with a man whose beatings had landed her in the hospital twice, Orange said.

He locked her repeatedly in the trunk of his car, raped her, threatened her with a knife, smothered her and even trained his pit bull to watch her every move, she said.

One month before the murder, she went to the district attorney's office after a beating, and they documented her injuries, but back then, it was simply her word against his, said her lawyer, Kellee Malone.

Two of the original trial jurors were contacted for the appeal, Malone said. They said the jury had been divided, and if they'd known about the abuse, they might have acquitted her. Those statements were included as part of the new trial, which began May 9.


No comments:

Post a Comment