Hours after sharing a meal together, an unnamed woman shot and killed her boyfriend, Steef Giovanni Corniel. The woman told police that Corniel had struck her several times and been physically abusive in the past. She said that Corniel had struck her while she was driving and later choked her at her apartment. He also threatened to kill her mother, according to the woman.
River Grove police chief Mike Konwinski believes the woman should be charged with murder, but Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx says that there is not enough evidence to prosecute. Corniel’s family believes that the woman should be charged and in a statement, Corniel’s grandfather claimed that the killing was not self-defense, it was murder.
The police had been called on Corniel and his girlfriend at least twice after neighbors heard screaming and fighting coming from the couple’s apartment. Corniel had recently been released from prison after serving four years on an aggravated assault charge. Police said that the woman never elected to press charges, so no charges were ever filed against Corniel.
On the day of the shooting, the two were coming back from a local restaurant and were on their way to the woman’s apartment. The woman accused her boyfriend of hitting and slapping her while she drove and as the two pulled into a gas station, Corniel hit her in the face, punched her, and then choked her. He then drove away with her vehicle. The gas station surveillance video appears to corroborate the woman’s claim. Footage shows Corniel behaving aggressively toward the woman.
The shooting did not occur until several hours later. The first shots were fired inside the woman’s apartment. She shot Corniel once and then followed him as he tried to escape the apartment, firing several more times. Eventually, he collapsed outside, where he died.
Will Prosecutors Bring Charges?
Prosecutors face a sympathetic defendant and an unsympathetic victim. They also face the likelihood that the defense will raise a “battered woman syndrome” defense. Battered woman syndrome defense is a type of self-defense plea where the defendant claims that the shooting was justified because the woman believed herself to be in danger having suffered beatings in the past. It also employs elements of diminished capacity (insanity defense) and diminished responsibility.
Prosecutors who prosecute these cases must focus entirely on the law as opposed to the story that they want to tell. Everyone knows the story: Abused woman gets even. The question is: Was she within her rights to get even?
The answer is usually “probably not.” Self-defense pleas require an immediate threat, but a battered woman defense usually argues that the defendant was not in their right mind or perhaps unjustifiably in fear of her life. Prosecutions of these cases do happen often, however, with mixed results.
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