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US President Biden issues pardons for drug offenses and murder

As US President Joe Biden spends the last days of 2022 vacationing in the US Virgin Islands, the White House has issued five full pardons to people involved in drug and alcohol-related crimes. , as well as a sixth for a murder case. .

That case, involving a defendant named Beverly Ann Ibn-Tamas, is credited with helping to understand “battered woman syndrome,” the term for a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-like psychological pattern associated with survivors. of domestic violence. .

“Battered woman syndrome” has been increasingly used to explain why some survivors turn to violence to protect themselves in situations where they would not otherwise meet the legal threshold for self-defence.

The syndrome, and concepts similar to it, have been invoked in several high-profile abuse cases, including that of child sex trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown and Florida mother Marissa Alexander.

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‘The first significant steps towards judicial recognition’

Ibn-Tamas was 33 years old and pregnant when she shot and killed her husband, neurosurgeon Abdur Ramad Yussef Ibn-Tamas, on February 23, 1976. The incident took place at their Washington, DC, home, which doubled as a medical practice. medical.

Prosecutors claimed that the shooting was in retaliation because Ibn-Tamas’s husband had threatened to throw her out of the house. But Ibn-Tamas consistently maintained that she feared for her life after suffering repeated physical and verbal abuse by her husband, before and during her pregnancy.

According to testimony described in the Washington Post, Ibn-Tamas told jurors that her husband dragged her upstairs after an argument, where he hit her with a hairbrush and a gun from a dresser in their bedroom. He ordered her out of the house, she said, and when she didn’t, he returned to her bedroom and began assaulting her, kicking her in the stomach.

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I saw the gun [on a dresser]”, Ibn-Tamas was quoted in the Washington Post as saying. “It looked like it was going to pick it up. I picked it up and fired.”

She said she then tried to run away with her 2-year-old daughter, but fired again when she saw him appear on a landing near the stairs. She feared that she might have taken another weapon out of the house: “It was like she was waiting for me. She just knew that she had a gun.”

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A White House statement on Friday explained that, “during her trial, the court refused to allow expert testimony on battered woman syndrome.” She was sentenced to between one and five years in prison.

Ibn-Tamas appealed, with leading domestic violence expert Lenore Walker testifying on his behalf.

“Milisecond. Ibn-Tamas’s appeal marked one of the first significant steps toward judicial recognition of battered woman syndrome, and her case has been the subject of numerous academic studies,” the White House added.

The statement also said that Ibn-Tamas, now 80, became director of nursing at an Ohio-based health care business. Both of his sons grew up to earn advanced degrees.

Changing attitudes about drug convictions

Friday’s pardons signal a continued shift in US attitudes toward survivors of domestic violence, as well as those convicted of drug charges.

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Also among those pardoned was an Army veteran from Dublin, California, who he pleaded guilty to marijuana trafficking conspiracy at age 23, though “his involvement was limited to serving as a courier on five or six occasions,” the White House said.

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Another recipient, an active duty US Air Force member, was sentenced for using ecstasy and alcohol at age 19 while serving in the military.

A third man was granted a pardon on charges related to renting a house later used to grow marijuana, although he “played no role in the grow house conspiracy.”

Two more pardons were issued, one for a South Carolina man who, at age 18, was “involved in a single illegal whiskey transaction” and another for an Arizona man who used a phone “to facilitate an illegal whiskey transaction.” cocaine at age 22.

The Biden administration has made addressing low-level drug arrests a priority in its clemency decisions.

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Criminal justice groups have long pressed the Biden administration to address the long-term effects of the so-called War on Drugs, a US campaign that began in the 1970s to stamp out drug use. The result was a dramatic increase in arrests, which increased the prison population and disproportionately affected African-American communities.

Biden issued the first pardons of his presidency in April of this year, using two of the initial three pardons to address drug-related convictions.

He has since issued a general pardon in October to those convicted of federal charges of “simple possession of marijuana,” referring to marijuana owned for personal use, with no intent to distribute.

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