A woman who killed her abusive husband after suffering physical abuse from him for years was sentenced to life in prison. However, she now has a chance at freedom after a court granted her a new trial.
Catina Curley lived in Little Woods, New Orleans, with her husband, Renaldo, and seven children. The two were married for ten years but the constant physical assault by her husband was increasing day by day.
One day she decided to stand up against him and his abuse. In March 2005, she pulled a gun and shot Renaldo in the chest. Curley was arrested immediately and was booked on second-degree murder charges.
Without even investigating the reason behind Curley’s action, police decided within hours that she killed Renaldo because of a domestic argument. Her case was framed by prosecutors in a way that made her the aggressor.
All the years of abuse that she and her children had gone through was never mentioned anywhere and consequently Curley was presented as a culprit completely overriding the fact that she was in fact a victim of domestic abuse who was terrified by Renaldo for years.
In 2007, she went to trial and hoped to get justice.
According to her children’s testimony, the father had hit their mother so many times that they had lost count. Renaldo once reportedly hit Curley so hard she dislocated her shoulder and broke her nose.
In another incident, the man tried to push Curley off a moving car.
“If I’m going to call the police or if I’m trying to call someone for help or something, he will break the phone,” she said in her testimony.
Despite the statements, her attorney, John Fuller, didn’t highlight the affects the physical abuse had on her mental health.
As a result, she failed the trial and was sentenced to life in prison without parole after being convicted of the murder charge. After living in prison for nearly ten years, Curley had lost hope and she believed she would die in prison.
However, in 2016, Criminal District Judge Arthur Hunter overturned her sentence and granted her a post-conviction relief petition. He maintained that her attorney had failed to defend his client. The court noted that Fuller didn’t cite the battered woman’s syndrome (BWS), which is a subcategory of post-traumatic stress disorder, during his defense.
Unfortunately, the review petition was rejected by District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office and appealed saying that there was not enough evidence to prove that Curley’s is mentally unstable.
But in June 2018, the Supreme Court recognized the BWS point and said it could be used to argue on the point of self-defense. As a result, Curley was granted a new trial and the court found that Fuller “failed entirely to investigate the proper way to defend [Curley].”
After more than a decade, she was released from prison on a bond $1,000.
Curley now joins the list of brave women who stood up against violence. However, the incident once again goes to show how the criminal justice system fails to help the survivors of domestic abuse.
Many cases similar to Curley’s have emerged recently.
In May 2018, Cyntoia Brown, a sex trafficking survivor serving a life sentence for fatally shooting a predator who took her home for sex was given a clemency hearing. She had been in prison for the last 13 years but now finally she a ray of hope.
In a similar incident, Marissa Alexander, a woman who served three years in prison for firing one shot near her husband who had allegedly threatened her.
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