Initially charged with second-degree murder following the death of her husband, a woman was released from jail and into a lower-security halfway house by a D.C. Superior Court judge who found there was substantial evidence the slaying may have instead been an act of self-defense.
The charge she now faces is voluntary manslaughter.
Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys know it is a rare move for a judge to reduce the charges prior to trial, and it speaks to the strength of evidence in the case.
Family members told reporters that the suspect, a local pharmacist, had been fighting extensively with her husband of four years in recent weeks.
On the night in question, the pair were allegedly arguing about the husband's change in his Facebook status to "separated." The wife had been staying elsewhere when the husband called and asked her to return to the home and talk. There, a series of fights erupted. The suspect's sister said she received a call that night and described her sister's demeanor as "frightened."
About two hours later, the wife called 911 to report her husband had gotten violent, so she shot him. First responders arrived to find the husband had been shot in the back of the head.
The woman would later tell investigators that at one point, her husband picked up a pistol and placed it on the TV stand in the living room. He then walked away and she said she picked up the weapon. He then lunged at her, she said, and she fired the gun three times.
She conceded he hadn't hit her that night or threatened to do so, but he had in the past.
Investigators reportedly found three other firearms in the home, none of which were registered to either the husband or wife.
In a later hearing, the woman's defense attorney revealed to the judge that his client had been battered repeatedly by her husband over the course of the marriage, but she had never called police because he had expressed a desire to enter politics, and she wanted to protect his future career.
Still, prosecutors were planning to elevate the charge to first-degree murder when the judge ordered it to be reduced to voluntary manslaughter. The primary difference between these two charges under D.C. law is the presence of adequate provocation.
Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought. That is, you had ill will and/or "wickedness of heart," and the act was deliberate and premeditated.
Voluntary manslaughter, meanwhile, is an intentional killing, but it is one with adequate provocation. One example that is given is if a wife returns home to find her husband in bed with her best friend and in a moment of sudden and intense fury, she kills both of them, she would be charged with voluntary manslaughter. The charge implies the person is still culpable, but had little time to reflect or plan the crime.
Involuntary manslaughter, meanwhile, is when a death is caused by criminal negligence. That is, the death was entirely unintentional, but still caused by the failure to exercise an appropriate degree of care.
While a person convicted of murder may serve up to life in prison, a person found guilty of manslaughter may serve up to 30 years. If you are facing charges in any capacity in the death of another person, you need to seek experienced legal representation.