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Defense Argues Domestic Violence Victim's Judgment Affected by Her Period

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cops Taos Sheriff Lorenzo Sanchez

Taos County Sheriff’s Deputy Lorenzo Sanchez surrendered Jan. 22, a day after he eluded Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s deputies, who were responding to a 911 call by a woman who said he had locked himself and her children in a house in Velarde.

Lorenzo Sanchez, the Taos County Deputy charged after an alleged domestic violence incident Jan. 21 in Velarde, will be heading to district court to face his charge.

But his attorney, Alan Maestas, argued that the victim in the case suffered from menstrual symptoms that made her overreact.

Sanchez appeared at the Rio Arriba Magistrate Court in Española March 13, where Judge Joseph Madrid ruled there was enough evidence presented at the preliminary hearing for the case to continue and be bound over to the First Judicial District Court.

The Taos County Sheriff’s deputy was charged with aggravated assault of a household member with a deadly weapon, battery of a household member, negligent use of a deadly weapon while intoxicated and negligent use of a deadly weapon near a dwelling or building.

The charges stemmed from a Jan. 21 incident when Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Summer Mirabal was called to the home by the victim who said her boyfriend pushed her, and then locked himself and her children in the house.

When she arrived at the scene, Mirabal heard shots fired, and the victim, while on the phone with dispatchers, said she believed Sanchez was standing on the porch and shooting a gun.

During the preliminary hearing, it was revealed that Maestas had interviewed the victim without the prosecution present. The victim also told the court she had reconciled with Sanchez, and did not want him to lose his job in law enforcement.

To that end, Maestas engaged in a line of questioning that seemed to imply the victim had misunderstood the events of that evening, and because she was a woman, prone to hormonal cycles, she might have overreacted to the events.

When Maestas first asked the victim if she suffered from PMDD, also known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, First Judicial District Senior Trial Attorney Jane Handley objected immediately, but Madrid allowed the line of questioning to continue.

“What is it, PMDD?” Maestas asked the victim.

The victim struggled to provide the actual name of the disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

“It’s premenstrual something or other,” Maestas then said.

The victim confirmed she suffered from the medical condition, but no medical records were introduced to the court.

As he questioned her, Maestas laid out a defense that claimed the victim was suffering from PMDD, a severe form of PMS which caused her to have major anxiety.

Despite multiple objections from the prosecution, Maestas was allowed to continue.

“She can testify about what she suffers with, it has to do with why she was saying the things she was saying on that particular night to dispatch,” Maestas said before instructing the victim to tell the court how the diagnosis affected her during the Jan. 21 incident.

“Well, I like, I could look back right now and I know events but everything I said was a blur,” the victim said.

Maestas asked if the diagnosis made her scared of things she would not normally be scared of, or if she was suffering from any of the symptoms that night. The only symptom the victim confirmed having was anxiety.

The victim testified her anxiety causes her “to just tense up.”

PMDD has never been successfully used as a defense resulting in acquittal of a woman in the United States, and the inclusion of the disorder itself in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) caused heated debate among medical professionals, which was documented in a 2002 American Psychological Association article.

Some professionals were concerned that creating the diagnosis would provide a guideline for a “society that wants to believe that many women go crazy once a month.”

After employing a defense strategy focused on the victim’s alleged misunderstanding of events, Maestas switched gears to whether or not a law enforcement officer could fire a gun when he was wearing a cast.

Maestas said Sanchez was wearing a cast on his right hand at the time of the incident, and then suggested that he could not possibly have been the one that fired shots that night.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Matthew Gallegos was called back to the stand by the prosecution in rebuttal to those claims.

Gallegos said that during their training, law enforcement officers are taught to shoot not only with their dominant hand, but also with their other hand, making them ambidextrous with firearms. Additionally, he detailed the process of loading a gun with only the non-dominant hand, and the multiple ways law enforcement officers are trained in those tactics.

In closing, Handley revisited the details of the night, and said the prosecution had met the standards for probable cause. She also advised Madrid not to read too much into the victim’s testimony.

“The victim is also biased, she has reconciled with the defendant, the children have been taken by the Children Youth and Families Department, she loves him and does not want him to lose his job,” Handley said. “Clearly if this case goes forward on these charges, his job is likely to be in jeopardy. With a grain of salt I would say take her testimony today.”

Madrid ruled there was probable cause and the case was sent to district court.

Requests for comment from the Taos County Sheriff’s Office received no response by press time.

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