In many domestic violence cases, the defendant will dispute the alleged victim’s account of events, arguing that the victim has an ulterior motive for making the accusations or that the victim’s account is unreliable. Thus, it is not uncommon for a defendant to seek to introduce evidence to impeach the victim, but not all evidence will be deemed admissible. In a recent Washington appellate case, the court analyzed when medical records indicating a victim had an altered perception of reality may be introduced to impeach the victim in a domestic violence assault trial. If you reside in Washington and are charged with a domestic violence crime, you should speak with a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss what you can do to protect your rights.
Factual and Procedural Background of the Case
It is alleged that the defendant and his wife, the reported victim, had an argument. During the argument, the defendant told his wife to kill herself, stated he would kill her himself and strangled her twice. The wife testified that during both times the defendant strangled her, she couldn’t speak or breathe, she had tunnel vision, and she thought the defendant was going to kill her. The defendant was charged with one count of domestic violence second-degree assault for each of the strangling instances, as well as a count of felony harassment for threatening to kill the wife.
Reportedly, the wife was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly before the alleged assault. During the trial, the husband sought to introduce medical records regarding the wife’s diagnosis and alleged symptoms, to support his position that the wife had an altered perception of reality at the time of the alleged assault. The court deemed the records inadmissible. The defendant was convicted on all counts, after which he appealed, arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in excluding the victim’s medical records.