Friday, December 28, 2012 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A San Francisco father who spent more than a month behind bars for battery was acquitted after a jury determined he acted in self-defense, Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated only 45 minutes Thursday before finding Duane Chatman Jr., 24, not guilty of one count of misdemeanor battery against the mother of his 1-year-old son, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Abigail Rivamonte.
Chatman, who had no criminal history, was arrested Thanksgiving Day following an altercation with his son’s mother at San Francisco General Hospital. Chatman had brought his son to the emergency room as a precaution after the boy fell off the bed while playing with other children. The boy was not injured in the fall.
When the boy’s mother arrived at the hospital, she became extremely upset and blamed Chatman for the accident. The pair argued and she threatened to take Chatman’s son from him, Rivamonte said. In a fit of rage, she began punching and shoving Chatman in the chest multiple times, ignoring his protests for her to stop. Finally, Chatman grabbed the woman and pushed her away from him. A nurse who briefly walked into the room during the fight witnessed the shove.
The complaining witness told police that Chatman punched her in the neck and tried to hit her in the face. Police testified that the woman suffered no injuries or bruising and declined medical attention.
During the weeklong trial, Rivamonte warned jurors against letting stereotypes about men and women invade the courtroom.
“Just because Mr. Chatman is a man and his attacker is a woman doesn’t mean he has to give up his dignity and take the beating,” Rivamonte said. “The law allows him to use reasonable force to defend himself, and that’s exactly what he did. He simply pushed her away to get her to stop hurting him.”
The complaining witness’ history of anger problems was revealed during the trial, including a recent vandalism conviction for slashing the tires of another former boyfriend’s car, jumping on the roof and hood and breaking the windshield by stabbing it with a knife.
That former boyfriend testified that the complaining witness attacked his car after he refused to open his door when she came armed with a knife to retrieve her belongings. The man’s neighbor also took the stand, testifying that the woman had the knife hidden behind her back while ringing her ex-boyfriend’s doorbell and appeared extremely aggressive.
The woman admitted on the stand that she was jealous of Chatman’s new relationship. Chatman’s family testified that the woman kept her son from Chatman on Father’s Day and the boy’s first birthday. The estranged parents are also embroiled in a custody battle, giving the boy’s mother a motive to lie about the hospital attack, Rivamonte argued.
Chatman’s former high school teacher and mentor, whom he has known for 10 years, testified to Chatman’s honesty and peaceful nature, saying that of the hundreds of students she has taught, Chatman remains one of her favorites.
“In the end, jurors did not find the complaining witness credible. They believed she acted in a fit of rage that day and that Mr. Chatman’s lack of criminal history and the honest way he testified showed that he was the one attacked,” Rivamonte said.
Chatman broke down in tears when the not guilty verdict was read, Rivamonte said.
Adachi praised the jury for carefully examining the facts in the case.
“The evidence showed that Mr. Chatman was the victim, not the aggressor,” Adachi said. “After spending the holidays in jail, he can now enjoy the New Year with his family.”