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Woman Seeks Clemency in Child Case

December 2, 1997

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Daniel Zuber has a constant reminder of the violence of his childhood _ a bullet still lodged in his chest from when his adoptive mother shot him 17 years ago.

That violence was also experienced by his two sisters, one of whom was sent to prison for killing their adoptive father _ she said he raped her for years.

Zuber hopes Gov. Lawton Chiles will end Rebecca Zuber’s sentence and release her after more than 13 years in prison.

Eleven women have been released in the five years since Chiles and the Cabinet began reviewing cases of battered women serving time for killing abusers. Two teen-agers also gained clemency.

Chiles was to consider Ms. Zuber’s clemency request Wednesday. Her co-defendant _ the friend who shot her father _ died in prison years ago.

Zuber, 33, a Tallahassee businessman, told reporters Monday about the family’s violent upbringing in the small Panhandle town of Ponce de Leon.

Dan and Shirley Zuber fought with each other, and both parents beat their three adopted children for no reason _ although beatings from their father were worse, Zuber said.

``Beatings were the norm _ often into the ground,″ said Zuber. ``We were punched in the face, whipped with chains, whatever might be at hand.″

He said he and his sisters could never predict what would trigger the violence.

``It could be a cough, a blink, not saying ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am,’ a flinch, a sigh _ it just didn’t matter,″ he said.

Ms. Zuber’s case has gained the attention of domestic violence groups. Although Ms. Zuber is now 29, her supporters aren’t representing her as a battered woman. They argue she’s an example of battered child syndrome because the shooting happened at age 16.

``It is difficult to imagine a child more harmed by domestic violence than Rebecca Zuber, or a child more abandoned by her community,″ said Lynn Rosenthal, executive director of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Zuber said he thought about killing himself and his father many times, including after one episode where his father kicked him, put his foot on his neck and then urinated on him.

``There were bad days and worse days,″ Zuber said.

Zuber was shot by his mother in 1980 while she was under the influence of alcohol and tranquilizers.

``She hung herself that morning in jail. I still have the bullet in my chest,″ he said.

Ms. Zuber has said the rapes started about two weeks after her mother’s death, when she was 12 years old. After the shooting four years later, she was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

``There is no way to give Rebecca back her life or to turn back the clock and see that she is protected and loved in her childhood,″ said Jennifer Lee Greenberg, director of the Battered Women’s Clemency Project. ``Clemency is not enough but it is the only remedy available to her.″

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