San Francisco, CA – On Monday, January 5, 2009, Jeremy Womack, 30, was acquitted of battery on a partner and battery on a partner causing a traumatic injury after forty-five minutes of jury deliberation.
Womack was arrested on November 11, 2008 after police officers responded to a call of domestic violence. Womack contended that his partner, Benjamin Schalit, 50, pulled a knife on him during an argument. Womack attempted to wrestle the knife away from Schalit, biting him on the forehead in the process.
Deputy Public Defender Anne Irwin took the case to trial on a theory of self-defense. Womack, who testified on his own behalf, explained to the jury that he was subjected to emotional and physical abuse at the hands of Schalit for a nearly a year and a half. Records of calls to 911 and medical reports confirmed his history of victimization.
According to Deputy Public Defender Irwin, “The police officers who responded to this incident were not equipped to make an accurate assessment of the situation. Because this was a same-sex couple, the officers could not rely on stereotypical gender roles to identify the victim and the aggressor. This case speaks to the larger issue of the inadequate training received by officers who respond to incidents of domestic violence that involve same-sex couples.”
Womack faced up to a year in jail if convicted.
The mission of the Public Defender’s office is to provide vigorous, effective, competent and ethical legal representation to persons who are accused of crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney. Established in 1921, the San Francisco Public Defender has a long, proud history of providing top-notch representation to its clients, and championing programs that help people turn their lives around.