By Andrew Wig
A judge found Amreya Shefa not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of her husband, a verdict announced Friday, Jan. 23, in Hennepin County District Court.
Instead, Judge Elizabeth Cutter found the 41-year-old Shefa guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of Habibi Tesema, 48. The stabbing occurred in the early morning of Dec. 1, 2013, at the couple’s Richfield home.
In her verdict, Cutter accepted the defense’s argument that the stabbing took place during the “heat of passion,” a legal term describing a circumstance caused by words or acts that would provoke a person of ordinary self-control in a like scenario.
First-degree manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 20.
Defense attorney Thomas Bauer argued Shefa was raped by her husband the night of Tesema’s death, provoking the stabbing. Shefa also claimed a history of sexual abuse from her husband, but all that was needed to satisfy the “heat of passion” argument was a single act, the judge noted.
Cutter cited numerous pieces of corroborating physical evidence found at the scene. Dildos and pornography that Shefa said were involved in a sexual assault were located in the bedroom where the stabbing occurred, Cutter mentioned.
Other elements consistent with Shefa’s account were found at the scene as well. She said she was cutting an orange with a knife just prior to the stabbing and that Tesema had been opening bottles of liquor with a knife. Both knives, the orange and the bottles were found at the scene, Cutter noted.
Since Tesema was found
naked after the stabbing except for socks, the implication is that he was unclothed at the time of the incident, another corroborating factor, the judge said.
However, other factors led the judge to dismiss the self-defense argument that would have prevented a manslaughter conviction. The number of stab wounds to Tesema and his level of intoxication meant Shefa used more force than necessary for self-defense, Cutter said.
But prosecutor Cheri Townsend was unable to disprove the “heat of passion” argument. In support of her own finding, the judge pointed to Shefa’s life circumstances preceding the stabbing.
Shefa had no friends or family in the country, no job, and she did not speak English beyond an elementary level, Cutter noted. When investigators asked Shefa why she didn’t leave Tesema if he had been abusing her, she said she had nowhere to go, Cutter added.
Following the verdict, Tesema’s sister, Robbinsdale resident Zeytuna Elies, sobbed as she sat in a heap on the hallway floor outside the courtroom. Other loved-ones were more stoic.
Robbinsdale resident Ahmed Elphato, Tesema’s brother, said he was also deeply saddened by the finding, even if he wasn’t showing it.
“I have to be strong, but it’s not good justice,” Elphato said, alluding to plans to demonstrate against the verdict before next month’s sentencing.
The verdict came despite the prosecution’s written rebuttal to the defense’s closing argument. That document argued that Shefa’s statements to officers following the stabbing show she was of rational mind at the time of the incident. Shefa told police she knew that if she had wanted to, she could have killed her husband in the hours preceding the stabbing due to his drunken staggering, Townsend wrote. That statement shows she was in control at the time of the stabbing, the prosecution argued.
The prosecution also took aim at the expert testimony of clinical psychologist Peter Marston, the defense witness who interviewed Shefa. Marston stated she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and battered woman syndrome due to ongoing sexual abuse.
However, Marston’s finding was based only on the defendant’s word and did not include independent testing or interviews, the prosecution pointed out, calling Marston a “hired gun” whose testimony amounted to “self-serving hearsay.”
Townsend further noted in her rebuttal that Marston was unaware of critical facts, such as the defendant having previously threatened her husband with a knife, that she had put her hands on him before, and that in previous episodes she had become angry over trivial matters such as purchases for the home.
The prosecution also pointed to Shefa’s visit to Hennepin County Medical Center following the stabbing. She was taken there to have her hand treated after it was cut during the altercation. That would have been the time to tell hospital staff she had been raped, but she didn’t, the prosecution argued.
Instead of sexual assault, her motive was Tesema’s desire to bring other parties into their sexual relationship, and possibly, his possession of pornography, Townsend argued. This, she reminded the judge, is not a crime.
More clear than the circumstances surrounding the death of Tesema, though, is that his and Shefa’s two children, a boy who was 2 at the time of his father’s death and a girl who was 3, are currently without both parents. Instead, they are under the care of Elphato.
Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent
Source: Sun Current
By Andrew Wig