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CASE STUDY 4: DA’s Mistake Leads to Assault On Wife

Curan & Ahlers brought an action in Queens County against the District Attorney’s Office on behalf of a woman who was attacked and stabbed by her husband. After the attack the police caught and arrested the man, who it turned out had shot his first wife and served five years for the crime. His current wife was assured that, with such a record, her husband would not be released under any circumstances. A short time afterwards, however, she received a phone call from her husband, and terrifed, told the District Attorney. The DA replied that this was not possible because there was no way her husband could have been released.

Afraid, the woman went home and asked a friend stay with her. She lived in a railroad apartment in Queens, New York, up a very steep flight of stairs. While she was talking to her friend her husband climbed in the back window, grabbed a large butcher’s knife, and came into the room where they were talking. He grabbed the friend and said, “Be quiet or I’ll kill you.” He then dragged her and his wife down the stairs, threw her friend out the door, and dragged his wife back up the stairs. Fortunately, at the top of the stairs she broke loose and ran through the apartment, slamming doors behind her while he broke them down trying to get to her. At street level she jumped through a window to escape but was stabbed her in the back sustaining severe injuries. The husband then escaped, but was recaptured about a week later. While she was in the hospital recovering all she could think about was that her husband would try to kill her in the hospital.

In the subsequent investigation and trial the DA stated that they had lost the husband’s file, causing the mistaken release. The judge, however, determined that this was an intentional act on their part to cover up what had happened. Curan & Ahlers won a verdict, which at the time was the highest verdict ever paid for psychiatric injuries. Most importantly, the DA had to change their policy and could no longer release a defendant who was previously involved in an assault without first notifying the person who was assaulted. Had this man’s wife been notified she would have had the opportunity to hide somewhere and avoid the attack.