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Unprecedented Million Dollar Settlement in Domestic Violence Homicide

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department in California has agreed to pay a record million dollar settlement to the family of Maria Teresa Macias in the landmark federal civil rights lawsuit Maria Teresa Macias vs. Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Ihde. This is the first ever monetary settlement awarded due to a police department’s negligence in protecting a domestic violence victim. The announcement came mid-trial last week at the close of dramatic testimony by Sara Rubio Hernandez detailing more than twenty attempts by her daughter, Maria Teresa Macias, to seek police protection from her violent estranged husband, Avelino Macias, who was never arrested or cited on the charges. After deputies ignored more than twenty reports in just the last few months of her life, which included accounts of sexual assault, stalking, death threats, and restraining order violations, Avelino Macias fatally shot Teresa, and then shot and seriously wounded her mother, Sara, on April 15, 1996. This landmark federal civil rights lawsuit, filed in October 1996, claimed that the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department violated Teresa’s constitutional right to equal protection of the laws. A July 2000 9th Circuit Appellate Court decision in the Macias case established for the first time and in the most unambiguous language to date, a woman’s rights to sue law enforcement when they fail to act.

Sources:

Women’s Justice Center Release; 06/19/02

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