In many criminal prosecutions, the refusal of a victim to testify against a suspect might derail the case. Not so with domestic violence cases, such as that involving Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.
Accused of misdemeanor domestic violence battery against his wife Eliana Lopez, Mirkarimi is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 24. Both husband and wife have publicly denied any abuse.
A neighbor reported the New Year’s Eve incident to police, saying a tearful Lopez complained of violence and showed her a bruised arm. Lopez subsequently said the incident was “completely taken out of context” and that the criminal investigation was motivated by her husband’s political enemies.
Lopez could refuse to testify at Mirkarimi’s trial.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Aguilar Tarchi argued last week that testimony from a domestic violence specialist about battering and its effects was needed to help explain a behavior pattern that might not make sense to the average person.
Nearly 80 percent of domestic violence victims later recant or minimize their abuse out of fear or a desire to reconcile, said Berkeley therapist Melinda Schrock, who has testified as a domestic violence expert but is not associated with this case.
“Recanting is very, very common and most of the time, when an expert is called by the prosecution, that’s the reason why,” Schrock said.
Lopez’s actions are “typical” of battered women’s syndrome, Tarchi wrote. She said an expert could explain to jurors the behavior of “a woman in a married relationship who willingly allows those close to her to learn about the abusive conduct happening behind closed doors and in front of a young child, and later minimizing and denying any wrong doing by her husband when the matter is reported to law enforcement.”
Mirkarimi’s attorney denied the characterizations in the motion.
“Sheriff Mirkarimi is a loving husband, a doting father, a tireless public servant and a very decent person,” said attorney Lidia Stiglich. “Mrs. Lopez is not a battered woman, period.”