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Survivors of abuse behind bars

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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"They have no intention to be deadly just to stop the attack."

The jury at Nancy Seaman's trial, however, disagreed, and found her guilty of first degree murder, determining she had premeditated the attack.

Larry Kaluzny was her attorney, along with his son Todd, who at the time had just left the Oakland County Prosecutor's office. "I had Todd question her (to prep her), to make her understand that the hardest thing is to answer yes or no," Kaluzny recalled. "She couldn't do it telling her whole life story. When she answered the first question, I said to Todd, look at that jury we just lost the case. Their bodies just closed up, because of the way she came across.

"It wasn't the same Nancy we knew. She kept giving long answers, and they just didn't have any sympathy for her. We were trying to humanize her, but the jury was just turned off by her, and felt she had an out," he continued. "I've had over 135 murder cases, and this is the one that bothers me.

"I believe 100 percent it was self-defense."

Former Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Jack McDonald did as well. He was the judge on Seaman's case, and eight months later, with it haunting him, he reduced the jury decision to second degree murder, an unlawful killing without premeditation.

"I was reversed by the Michigan Court of Appeals, 2-1, but I had to live with myself," McDonald said. "I had never done something like that in 17 years. I bet I had about 18 first degree murder cases. I never gave them a second thought they were hard core killers. But I wondered why did she do it? She borrowed money from her father, she's getting a divorce, she's out of there. He had been out of town. How would she know he would be there? It didn't make any sense. I didn't grant a new trial because there wasn't sufficient evidence to, but just off the cuff eight months later, I said there wasn't evidence of premeditation. It was either rage or absolute fear. Either one negates a cool mind where it would be premeditated murder."

What also contributed to his questioning was a letter he received from Dr. Lenore Walker stating that while she had been allowed to testify about battered woman syndrome, by the rules of Michigan evidence, she could only provide statistics and generalities of traits of a battered wife, and was precluded from providing a conclusion.

"In the Seaman case, I could only speak about domestic violence in general and battered women in general," noted Walker. "I could not speak that Nancy was abused or fit any pattern of battered woman syndrome. I had some test results from another psychologist, and I wasn't allowed to introduce that. It was difficult for the jury to fit it together."

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