Wednesday, September 17, 2014

GUEST LEGAL OPINION: The Ray Rice Case By Richard J. Chrystie

By Richard J. Chrystie, retired Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, Sept. 17, 2014

The only thing unusual about this case is that the battery was caught on videotape.

Seeing a woman hit hard -- particularly hard enough to knock her out -- is shocking. Even TV dramas don’t show women being hit. I have heard that TV scriptwriters are instructed not to put in scenes depicting violence against women. It is too upsetting to viewers. So it is the showing of the videotape where Mr. Rice punched his fiancĂ© in the face that has so shocked the public and made this case so newsworthy.

But as far as the actual violence goes, this is a routine case. The victim was hit once, did not require medical treatment, and doesn’t want her (now) husband prosecuted. This happens all the time. And in Los Angeles, if a case of misdemeanor battery is filed in this sort of situation, it is very commonly held in abeyance -- called “diversion” -- while the defendant attends anger management classes. If he (or, rarely, she) completes the classes and has no further violations, then the charges are dismissed.

So this would not be a case of celebrity justice in Los Angeles. Diversion of such a case out of the criminal justice system while the defendant attends anger management classes is routine.

But if the victim is injured and requires medical treatment or shows extensive bruising, or if the perpetrator has a record of committing domestic violence, then the case will be handled as a straight criminal case. There will be no diversion. But even in this instance, the victim very often refuses to cooperate. This is particularly true if she is still living with the perpetrator/defendant. So unless there is other evidence -- such as photos of the injuries, or witnesses to the battery, or a recorded 911 call reporting the battery in an excited voice, the case might not even be filed.

Regarding Mr. Rice being fired from his football team, I think this is excessive. Ray Rice losing his livelihood for this punishes the victim -- his wife -- as much as it punishes him.

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