After 16 years in prison, Hudie Joyce Walker, 65, of Pomona, Ca., was freed yesterday. The Los Angeles Times says the case is a sign of how much the law has changed for battered women who strike back. Walker was a beneficiary of the first appellate court decision to interpret a 2002 state law that allows inmates to reopen their cases if they can show that expert testimony on abuse probably would have changed the outcome. Walker, who never knew her father and was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriends, was in a series of abusive relationships until her fourth husband was shot dead and she went to prison.
University of Southern California law professor Carrie Hempel said the decision marks the right of a battered person to get a new trial if she was convicted of homicide before the law recognized the importance of expert testimony on the effects of battering. It could help 50 or 60 other cases. Walker was charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting her husband on Mother’s Day 1990. Joyce Walker said they both grabbed for the gun after a dispute. The .25-caliber handgun discharged, and Thomas Walker was killed.