Victim of Domestic Violence Released from Prison under California Law
Wednesday, June 6, 2007 2:01 PM

Sixteen years ago, Hudie Joyce Walker was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to nineteen years to life in prison for killing her abusive husband. Although Walker maintained her husband’s death was an accident, occurring in self-defense after he had been drinking and threatened her life, the prosecutor questioned her credibility, arguing she would not have stayed with him if he had indeed been as abusive as she claimed.

In 2002, California enacted a law enabling courts to grant a writ of habeas corpus for convictions prior to the 1992 People v. Humphrey decision and where the defendant could show the lack of expert testimony had a prejudicial effect. In People v. Humphrey, the California Supreme Court found that expert testimony could affect jury misbeliefs about domestic violence. Walker filed a habeas corpus petition and was granted a new trial because, had such expert testimony been provided at her original trial, jurors may have only convicted Walker of manslaughter. In that event, she would have already served her sentence.  Accordingly, the district attorney accepted her plea of no contest to manslaughter, and she was released.

Walker plans to be an activist for battered women. She was the first released because of the new law, but there are potentially over fifty other cases that could benefit from this law and ruling.

Compiled from: “State Law, Ruling on Abuse of Women Help Free Inmate,” Los Angeles Times, 30 May 2007.