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Survivors of abuse behind bars

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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Unfortunately, once he was dead, she told police and friends he had committed suicide. She claims she was trying to protect his reputation, so he wouldn't be known as a batterer.

In a trial before Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Norman Lippitt in 1988, Karen was found guilty of second degree murder in the death of Paul, and given a sentence of life imprisonment, which Lippitt said, under sentencing guidelines at the time, he believed meant she would be released in 10 years.

"It was my understanding if I sentenced her to life, she would be paroled in 10 years," Lippitt said recently. "Typically, people were paroled in 10 to 12 years. I chose life (as the sentence) because she would have been out in 10, because she deserved parole. There was some spousal abuse, but I don't know how cognizant I was then about it. What the hell did we know about spousal abuse? It wasn't on our radar screen (in 1988).

"But changes in administrations changed the tone of sentences a lot over the years."

Lippitt, now in private practice, has since spoken before the Michigan Parole Board, noting his error in sentencing and advocating for her parole. "She shouldn't be in jail, and she's in jail."

An appeal in 1993 before subsequent Oakland Circuit Court Judge Barry Howard, after Lippitt stepped down, was overturned.

"I overturned the conviction based upon her being abused throughout her life, including her marriage," said Howard, now a private judge in Bloomfield Hills overseeing primarily mediation cases. "She was a victim of battered spouse syndrome; that had her counsel been more effective, the likelihood her life sentence would have been reduced; the sentence was not what the (original) judge intended; and the psychological report indicated that Ms. Kantzler was not a threat to society.

"What I did was overturned her original sentence; she plead again, and I gave her three to 10 years, which in essence was time served," Howard explained.

However, prosecutors objected and appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which reinstated Kantzler's original life sentence.

Almost 30 years and numerous appeals later, Kantzler continues to remain incarcerated with over 2,000 other female inmates by Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) in the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypslanti

"I just wanted a happy life," Karen Kantzler said recently. "I just wanted him to agree to stop (the abuse). I even asked him to go to counseling because I wanted to go. He said 'no' because it (the abuse) was (due to) my human frailties."

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