Self-defense has long been an excuse used in domestic violence cases. In many situations, this is a hard distinction to make. Consider a recent case reported by the Seattle Times of a Renton woman named Vanetta Richardson was arrested Sunday night after she called 911 reporting that she shot her husband. Her husband, Jerry Lee Butler Jr., later died from his injuries.
Police say that 34 year old Richardson fired a 40 caliber handgun at Butler until it ran out of ammunition after an argument broke out between the two. She is being investigated for second-degree murder domestic violence. Richardson allegedly continued to shoot the victim even as he was running away from her.
While this may seem like an obvious case of murder, when you examine the facts that Butler had previously been arrested for domestic violence against Richardson and again for smashing the windows of her car with a baseball bat, you make think differently. Richardson even had taken out a no contact order against him last year.
After reviewing these facts, it may be possible that Richardson was a chronic domestic violence victim who was finally pushed too far. Though Butler was only arrested a few times for domestic violence, it does not mean that instances did not go unreported. The act of shooting him may have been in self-defense and the sheer fact that he was shot so many times shows just how desperate she was to get away from him.
Richardson also called 911 immediately and reported that she was the one who shot her husband. She did not try to cover up the incident or lie about it. She also reported that that night, during the argument, her husband had slapped her and knocked a phone out of her hand causing it to hit their six year old daughter. In addition, she stated that Butler blocked the door to her house so she was not able to leave. She may have felt that her only option was getting the handgun which was kept in the bedroom.
Police are still investigating this case and interviewing the six children who were present in the home during the argument. While the facts of this case could lead either way, it is a prime example of how the line between self-defense and domestic violence can become blurred.