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Jury Exonerates Woman Who Killed Abusive, Drunken Husband

November 22, 1989

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ A woman has been acquitted of killing her husband on a day he began drinking at 7 a.m., assaulted her three children and told her: ″It’s time to get rid of you.″

Robin Elson, 28, didn’t deny she shot her husband, unemployed auto mechanic Jack Elson, on Dec. 17, 1988. Elson, 44, died of wounds to the back.

But the jury agreed Tuesday with her lawyer, Lynda Vitale, that it was self-defense after 6 1/2 years of beatings and abuse.

Court clerk Allyn Mattox’s voice choked with emotion when she read the verdict. And Elson embraced Vitale, tears streaming down their faces, while tears filled the eyes of most people in the court.

The three-week trial focused on the so-called battered wife syndrome.

Psychologist Nancy Kaser-Boyd said during nearly three days of testimony that women often endure abuse because they become afraid to leave, feel helpless, have low self-esteem and limited resources.

Testimony revealed that while Elson had been beaten by her husband in the past, the day he died was worse than usual.

He had been drinking since about 7 a.m. He beat and choked stepdaughter Renee, now 11; kicked and punched son Camrin, 3; and harassed son Brock, 1.

He turned a hose full-force on the family’s pet dog and threw the animal three times onto the roof of their home in East Long Beach.

That afternoon, he told his wife he felt suicidal, accused her of being a poor mother and said: ″It’s time to get rid of you.″

He forced her to point his rifle at him as part of what he called a self- defense lesson, poking the gun in her chest when she refused to learn. When the ″lesson″ ended, he put the rifle on the living room floor and said: ″It’s hot and ready to go.″

Elson said that in her mind, that meant he was going to kill her and the children.

She said she later went back into the living room, picked up the gun and shot her husband. He was hit twice in the back. A medical examiner’s report said he had a blood alcohol level of 0.16.

Deputy District Attorney Tom Holmes questioned the jury’s decision.

″The rules regarding self-defense do not permit this kind of result,″ Holmes said. ″There has to be an imminent danger of great bodily harm or injury. This simply was not a correct verdict.″

Juror Susan Jepsen said, ″I really hope women learn from this not to let it go this far.″

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