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November 5, 2009

Florida state judge reduces homicide sentence based on "battered spouse syndrome"

This notable local sentencing story, which is headlined "Davie woman gets five-year sentence for fatal shooting: Woman gets 5 years for killing man who abused her," reports on a sentencing reduction a judge granted based on "battered spouse syndrome."  Here are the details:

Physically, sexually and emotionally dominated by a hulking man who gave her drugs in exchange for sex, Lisa Marie Romero's breaking point came when he threatened her three children's safety.

Romero, 39, shot Frank Don Alvarez, 61, in the back of the head with a rifle and left him dead, face down in an industrial area north of Davie Boulevard near Interstate 95, on Nov. 17, 2006.

Finding that Romero suffered from battered spouse syndrome, Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes on Thursday cast aside sentencing guidelines that called for a 10- to 30-year sentence and sent Romero to prison for five years.

Incensed by the light sentence, Alvarez's son, John, 44, stormed out of the courtroom. "Put it this way, I will get my justice when she gets out of prison," he said, pacing in the courthouse hallway. "She will find out."

He had not yet heard that the judge also gave Romero credit for the nearly three years she had spent in jail awaiting trial. Prison will be followed by 10 years of probation.

Influenced by opinions from two psychologists who found that Alvarez abused Romero, state prosecutor Al Ribas downgraded a charge of first-degree murder to manslaughter with a firearm. In September, Romero pleaded guilty to that charge.

November 5, 2009 at 11:08 PM | Permalink


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I don't have a problem with this sentence IF it's true she was a battered wife. But BWS is is often abused. I'm less convinced by the psychologist reports than I would be to find that there was official record of abuse. "He abused me" should only be a credible claim when there is substantial evidence prior to the murder. otherwise its ex post facto justification.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 5, 2009 11:29:34 PM

I recall a similar sort of thing out of either Minn or Mich. The state appeals courts ended up re-instating the jury's 1st degree murder conviction. I also agree with Daniel that I have lots of problems with BWS where prior documentation is not present.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Nov 5, 2009 11:42:25 PM

The hunt is on for the productive male, literally, as with hunting rifles, by the feminist criminal lover lawyer. The family of the victim of the feminist has every moral and intellectual justification for self-help, not just against the murderer, but the biased, feminist running dog judge.

The message of this sentence. If a male offends, go ahead murder him. The penalty will be a slap on the wrist rather than the gallows.

The syndrome has no scientific validation. Daubert applies to criminal procedure.


This is garbage science. It distinguishes itself in the annals of garbage. It is a rare form of quackery condemned by the Congress itself.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 6, 2009 12:02:53 AM

"It is a rare form of quackery condemned by the Congress itself." Boy, I'm not even sure where to start; this statement is so pregnant with myriad opportunities for mockery. Using Congress as the measuring stick for declaring something quackery? Seriously? You mean the Congress that has Michelle Bachmann, James Inhoffe, et al. in it? Well, THAT certainly settles it now, doesn't it? Thanks for the laugh this morning, SC. Much obliged....

Posted by: ALB | Nov 6, 2009 9:31:40 AM

I agree that a documented record of abuse should be "sine qua non" as a defense. Psychologists are often hired guns who are sought out because they have established entrenched positions.

Even then, taking the law into your own hands when there are currently so many alternative ways of handling the situation is troubling.

Posted by: mjs | Nov 6, 2009 9:45:06 AM

ALB: Congress is the Mecca of quackery. If they see quackery, it is quackery to the extreme, too much even for the quacks in that body.

And no, I am not casting aspersions on any Moslem holy site. I am using that term only in the nicest way.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 6, 2009 2:08:17 PM

"I agree that a documented record of abuse should be 'sine qua non' as a defense."

What about the cases where the abused spouse is too afraid of the abuser to document the abuse while it is occurring?

Posted by: desuetude | Nov 6, 2009 7:32:49 PM

desuetude: That may have been a viable explanation 30 years ago. Currently, there are shelters and organizations specifically designed to assist abused women.

Posted by: mjs | Nov 6, 2009 7:45:50 PM

desuetude --

The subtext of the battered wife "syndrome" is that the wife is acting out of fear. But fear, unless it is an objectively reasonable fear of IMMINENT serious bodily harm or death, does not justify the use of deadly force.

That is not my main point, however. The main point is that, while fear is involved to some extent in some of these cases, what we know for sure is involved is revenge. Revenge never gets mentioned, of course, to do so being considered "insensitive," but I doubt that you or any sensible person would deny its role.

It's not that revenge shouldn't have a role; indeed, it is often the vessel through which accountability, in a very rough form, acts. But, as mjs correctly suggests, it is illegal and dangerous to allow private individuals, no matter how aggrieved, to decide for themselves what form the revenge should take.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 7, 2009 10:08:12 AM

"Seriously? You mean the Congress that has Michelle Bachmann, James Inhoffe, et al. in it?"

Yep,and Nancy and Barney and Harry and old Charlie Rangel and John Conyers and Maxine Waters, well, you get the picture. What's your point? Plenty of quackery to go around just depends on who your duck is.

Posted by: HadEnough | Nov 7, 2009 9:54:13 PM

HadEnough: Great to hear from you. Thanks for your attention and support. It means a lot to me.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 7, 2009 10:36:28 PM

like any form of diminised capacity there are both objective and subjective components. while there are many more services available for battered women today, the person may have diminished capacity for several factors. in the current case, the article notes drug use - drug addiction would limit capacity for acceptable forms of self help or official self help. other factors may include education, social factors, underlying mental illness, etc.

the circumstances will also matter - when was the most recent instance of violence? how soon before the homicide was the threat made to the children? it is pretty wreckless to spectulate based on a news account.

obviously revenge will play a role, but its a mistake to look at things totally rationally when looking at a case involving someone who is by definition not acting or perhaps even not capable of acting rationally.

Posted by: virginia | Nov 9, 2009 10:41:54 AM

it's unfortanete that she was a lousy mother and left 3 kids behind, to go have sex and drugs with this man. and the judge calls it justice come on, what about those kids that had nothing to do with it, where are they?

Posted by: jack | Jun 10, 2010 10:18:26 PM

I found this and thought I should post something having read the comments.

I am an ex boyfriend of Lisa's........ this was shocking to me!!!
This was the girl I fell for in my life the fastest....
She was not that kind of girl before........ Lisa was a gorgeous young model and one of the prettiest girls in my families area, as I remember she did not even smoke marijuana then. She was a typical 20 year old girl that was pretty and knew it. The courtroom pics at 36........man did she age fast!!!! WOW
She comes from I would say a typical middle to lower middle class family, none with a higher education.
Lisa was cute, sweet ansd the most beautriful eyes ever......I was also a model in Miami then............ But she was not very educated. I remember her English and grammar were so bad I was concerned bringing her to dinner at my parents, since I come from a family where things were quite different, including social class. She never said 1 word thru the 1st dinner, that was almost worse.

My final attempt was to get her out of sleeze South Florida and back to Colorado and college in Boulder with me and told her then, Florida and her life there were a dead end street..........I could see where it could only be headed..................... she said she stayed because she was worried about her nieces and nephews.

As for what questions you guys asked above.........
I have heard this guy was a brutal maniac.....like 9 times in prison and he is still out on the streets doing meth and coke deals and abusing women. That says something to me about a system thats not working.... That however, as stated above does not excuse the behavior that she took part in, for whatever reason. But clearly his death is no loss to the world.
It hurt to read and hear what was happening to her.

I left Florida to go away to college and never looked back......... West Hollywood, Davie were always partly southern white trash areas before all the new subdivisions were built, my folks lived in a different area, we met playing pool. Cocaine and crystal are king there. She is a product of her environment.

@mjs......... I agree with you

From what I have been able to understand about this case........no I am not a lawyer......political philosophy, so I can read and at least comprehend what it says.

She believed he thought she was turning into a snitch........... he threatened to kill her kids......... she already knew how violent he was and as you said clearly had reasonable fear of imminent harm to her kids........ obviously she knew that since he had hurt her.

hope it was ok I posted.

So who draws the line and where is it drawn.........

Posted by: afriendofthekiller | Sep 24, 2010 4:15:48 AM

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