Rena Alspaw was only 16 when she pulled out a stolen pistol along an isolated wooded trail and shot her ex-boyfriend four times — three to the body and one to the back of the head.No, she was not physically abused. Her complaint is that the jury was not told that her victim had served time for killing cats!
After a brief trial in 1994, the San Jose teen was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years to life.
Now, fifteen years later, a judge has taken the rare step of voiding that guilty verdict, opening up the possibility that the girlish-looking 31-year-old killer with long auburn hair could be retried — or even freed — on the grounds that she was a battered woman.
What makes this case so unusual is that Alspaw isn't a classic battered woman. She didn't live with the man she killed, and he didn't physically abuse her, except for handcuffing her once against her will. But there's evidence he harassed her, including calling the police on her for no reason and broadcasting insults about her over a loudspeaker. His violent past, and the threat of violence are what Alspaw contends made her a battered woman.
Her case is getting a second look thanks to a 2002 state law that allows certain convictions to be overturned because jurors didn't get a chance to take into account substantial evidence of the role of battering.
But most compelling might be Swanson's substantial record of animal cruelty.This is crazy. She confessed to a cold-blooded premeditated murder of her boyfriend. Are cat lovers going to excuse this because he was a cat-killer? If so, I would favor keeping all the cat lovers off the jury.
"All you need," said Kelly, Alspaw's lawyer, "are animal lovers on the jury."