Friday, October 9, 2009

Overcoming Personal Danger

I like to write on this blog late at night.  It is relaxing.  I like to remember the great people I have represented.  Tonight, I want to tell you about a woman I met and represented shortly after I became a lawyer.  I will call her Shoshana (I just saw Inglorious Basterds).  Shoshana was married to Art (not real names).  Art was a cop.  Art beat Shoshana.  It was hard for Shoshana to get any help done when Art beat her, because his cop buddies didn't do anything to protect Shoshana.

Art did mean things to Shoshana's son, such as making him eat regurgitated food for punishment.  Art beat Shoshana a lot.  Shoshana fled to a shelter on several occasions.   She finally decided to get a divorce and she got a protective order.

One evening, Shoshana was driving in her car with her son and daughter in the back when she spied Art following her.  Shoshana drove to the police station, honked the horn and told the sergeant that she had a restraining order against Art, about which she had told the police.  This was the police station where Art worked, but the sergeant assured Shoshana that he would detain Art.

Shoshana drove home, but Art arrived there first.  He ordered the kids to their rooms, ripped out the phones from the jacks, locked the dead bolts on the doors, and started beating Shoshana.  His anger intensified, he made Shoshana have sex with him.  Then he got a knife and started stabbing Shoshana, but the knife handle broke.  Art got up to get another knife.  As he did so, Shoshana bolted up and flung herself through the plate glass window in the living room.  Art followed.  Shoshana, on the ground, looked up at Art.  It was as if Art woke up from a nap.  He looked at Shoshana, he looked at the knife in his hand, and he ran to his car and drove off, wearing only his underwear.  Shoshana came to find out that Art drove to his brother's house, where he put his service pistol to his head and blew his brains out.

Shoshana came to some lawyers, with whom I ultimately got involved, to sue the police department.  It was a civil rights case and I was just out of law school.  We took depositions.  Shoshana and the kids lived in the battered woman's shelter.  The city filed a summary judgment motion and the federal trial court threw the case out.  For the second time in my life, I wrote a brief and went to the Court of Appeals, this one in Denver, to argue the case for reversal.  I was scared, but didn't want Shoshana to know.  The judges asked interesting questions, and lo and behold, they reversed the trial court (my first win in appellate court.)

The case was remanded for trial and we began trial.  In the middle of the trial the case settled for enough money for Shoshana to buy a home for her kids.  They were happy, and I lost track of Shoshana.

Fast forward 15 - 20 years, I get a card from Shoshana, with her beautiful family. She called and we talked.   Her small daughter was grown up and a beauty queen.  Her son was in college.  Shoshana was a banker and married to a kind and loving man.  I had wondered what had happened to Shoshana, and quite frankly I had been worried.  It didn't seem as if she had much support when we tried the case.  It felt good to see her happy with a happy family.

Living in a physically abusive relationship is so detrimental not only to the person in danger, but also to the kids who witness that type of behavior.  It seems that abusive behavior can be passed down from generation to generation.  Shoshana broke the cycle.  I am not sure how she did it - I imagine the shelter helped.  I cannot imagine the amount of determination and fortitude it would take to break that cycle.  She is amazing.

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