On Friday, March 14, Criminal Defense Clinic students Lucia Roibal, ‘15 and Nida Vidutis, ‘15 prevailed in their domestic violence case, gaining dismissal of the charge filed against their client.
Lucia and Nida knew they had a strong case for their client’s innocence. His wife’s extremely violent behavior over the past year made it clear that their client was acting in self-defense. However, they knew the hurdles they would face in trial: jurors usually assume the defendant is guilty in domestic violence cases, and their client was both taller and larger than his wife. Most importantly, trial came with the deeply unsettling news that the prosecutor planned to call the couple’s five-year-old son to testify.
Five days before trial, Lucia and Nida met for 45 minutes with the prosecutor. They showed her a record laying out his wife’s acts of violence over the past year, and they provided a letter written by their client’s ex-wife, who planned to fly in from out of state to testify that during their 20-year marriage, he was never violent toward her. They even had pictures of some of the property damage the wife had caused. They asked for outright dismissal, knowing that this was unlikely.
The next day, they mooted their client’s direct examination in front of their clinic mates. In their minds, they assumed they might have to keep fighting all the way through trial. On Friday afternoon, three days before trial, they got fantastic news: the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case! Nida and Lucia ran to the nearest conference room to call their client. Nida remarked after the conversation, “It’s not every day you get to give someone such great news! He said it felt like Christmas.”