Prior Domestic Violence Evidence In Spousal Abuse Cases In California
In People v. Gomez (1999), 72 Cal. App. 4th 405, the trial court had allowed of prior domestic violence testimony in a spousal abuse case.
The Court of Appeal, recognizing the existence of Evidence Code section 1107, concluded that the evidence admitted was irrelevant because there was no showing of prior domestic violence between the husband and wife to establish that the victim in that case was a battered woman:
"Here, other than evidence of the present incident, there is no evidence indicating that the husband abused or behaved violently toward the wife.
There is no evidence that the husband fit the profile of a batterer, or that the wife and the husband were engaged in a 'battering' relationship. on this record, the expert's testimony regarding battered women's syndrome was irrelevant." (72 Cal. App. 4th at p. 417.)
In reaching this decision, the Court of Appeal cited and relied upon the definition of "battered women's syndrome" in People v. Humphrey (1996) 13 Cal. 4th 1073 56 Cal. Rptr. 2d 142, 921 P.2d 1:
"The Humphrey court determined evidence of battered women's syndrome was relevant to the defendant's credibility and to show whether she reasonably believed it was necessary to act in self-defense. (People v. Humphrey, supra, 13 Cal. 4th at p. 1087.)
In coming to this conclusion, the court recognized that 'battered women's syndrome "has been defined as 'a series of common characteristics that appear in women who are abused physically and psychologically over an extended period of time by the dominant male figure in their lives." ( People v. Gomez, supra, 72 Cal. App. 4th at p. 416.)
Another case, People v. Gadlin (2000) 78 Cal. App. 4th 587 92 Cal. Rptr. 2d 890, discusses the same issue as in People v. Garcia, citing and discussing People v. Garcia and People v. Humphrey.
The case concluded that evidence pursuant to Evidence Code section 1107 was properly admitted because there was evidence of prior spousal abuse and therefore admission of the evidence "does no violence to the Humphrey definition." ( People v. Gadlin, supra, at p. 593.)