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Friday, January 9, 2009

Jury Acquits Man Who Bit Partner's Forehead

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2009 at 4:22 PM

On November 11, the San Francisco Police Department responded to a call from a gay man who said his partner had abused him. When police arrived and found Bejamin Schalit, 50, with crescent-shaped bite marks on his forehead, they arrested the partner, Jeremy Womack, 33, and the district attorney's office charged Womack with battery.

Unfortunately, the cops didn't get the whole story, and the case quickly collapsed after a jury learned that Womack had been calling 911 for a year and half, complaining of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of Schalit. Records of the calls and telling medical reports were provided to the jury. Womack, who testified on his own behalf, said that on the night of the incident, Schalit had pulled a knife, and during Womack's attempt to wrestle the knife away, he bit Schalit's forehead.

Earlier this week, after 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury acquitted Womack.

Womack's public defender, Anne Irwin, has a theory on why her client was misidentified as the sole aggressor. "Because this was a same sex couple, the officers could not rely on stereotypical gender roles to identify the victim and the aggressor," she said. "The police officers who responded to this incident were not equipped to make an accurate assessment of the situation."

Irwin questions whether the SFPD has adequately trained the officers who respond to incidents of domestic violence involving same-sex couples. SFDP spokesman Sgt.Wilfred Williams said he was unaware of special training regarding same sex couples, and noted that in the general order, an SFPD code for investigating domestic violence cases, officers are instructed not to allow the gender of the victim or the suspect to influence their investigation.

About 10 percent of the domestic violence caseload involves same sex couples, according to the public defender's office.  

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Ashley Harrell


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