A Cambridge District Court jury today found Attorney Chris Spring’s client not guilty of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in a case that involved allegations of significant histories of domestic violence by both parties.
The defendant and the alleged victim had been involved in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship for more than a year. It was a relationship that was punctuated by allegations of infidelity and nonstop arguing. One day, the defendant was spending time with the girlfriend at her home. The girlfriend was putting dishes away while arguing with the defendant. The defendant approached her and hugged her from behind, wrapping his arms around her abdomen. The defendant testified at trial that as he hugged the girlfriend and told her he didn’t want to argue anymore, she took a knife and began stabbing him in the arm. Once he realized he was being stabbed, he struggled to back away. The defendant asserted that the girlfriend continued to lunge at him with the knife and in self defense, he picked up a plastic water bottle from the counter and threw it at her. The bottle hit the girlfriend in the head, causing a significant laceration. The defendant testified that after the girlfriend was struck with the bottle, she stopped attacking him and he ran upstairs to grab his bag, his wallet, and his keys. The girlfriend allegedly confronted the defendant as he came down the stairs, squeezing his arm and causing blood to spurt all over the walls. The defendant escaped outside and called the police. The girlfriend alleged that the defendant threw the bottle at her during an argument and then began stabbing himself with a knife. The defendant and the victim both went to the hospital and received stitches for their respective injuries.
At trial, Attorney Spring asserted the defendant was acting in self-defense. A person is permitted to use reasonable force to defend himself from a physical attack, and Attorney Spring argued his client was legally permitted to throw the bottle at the girlfriend to prevent her from continuing to stab him. Attorney Spring also convinced the trial judge to allow him to introduce evidence that the girlfriend had committed acts of violence toward the defendant and other people in the past year. So-called prior bad acts were admissible to establish: the girlfriend had a history of violent behavior; the girlfriend had feelings of hostility toward the defendant; and the girlfriend (and not the defendant) was the first aggressor. The defendant and his mother both testified about the girlfriend’s prior acts of violence. Attorney Spring then called an Arlington police officer to testify that the girlfriend admitted to physically attacking the defendant approximately one week prior to the stabbing after learning the defendant was being unfaithful. Attorney Spring introduced to the jury photographs of the injuries the defendant had sustained following a prior attack by the girlfriend.
The jury took about an hour to deliberate before finding the defendant not guilty of the charge. The defendant, who had been held without bail since his arraignment, was immediately released from custody.