The D.C. Court of Appeals overturned the manslaughter conviction of a pharmacist, who in 2019 was found guilty of fatally shooting her husband.
The court ruled that the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to consider how she was affected by spousal abuse.
Diana Lalchan, 36, was found guilty on March 28, 2019, in the death of her husband, Christopher Lalchan. Her defense argued that she feared for her life, citing evidence that he had been violent and abusive during their relationship, including smashing her computer, shoving and slapping her, and strangling her on several occasions, according to court documents.
First reported by The Washington Post, Lalchan had been serving more than three years of her 7- 1/2-year sentence.
The prosecution originally argued that Lalchan killed her husband for money and personal reasons surrounding their potential divorce.
The court of appeals agreed with Lalchan’s defense that the trial court “committed reversible error by declining to instruct the jury that it could consider the effects of battery in assessing whether Ms. Lalchan’s perception of danger was objectively reasonable.”
The court of appeals also said that Judge Ronna L. Beck’s instructions to the jury did not explain that the objective reasonableness of Lalchan’s conduct could be understood in light of the effects of abuse she had experienced.
“In sum, we conclude that the refusal to give the requested instruction was harmful error,” the court of appeals said.
Lalchan’s conviction came six years after she called police on March 28, 2013, to report that she had shot her husband inside their apartment on the 1200 block of Fourth Street Southwest in D.C. She told police that she had acted in self-defense.
The two had been married since 2008. Diana Lalchan told police that on the night before the shooting, Christopher Lalchan asked her to come home to talk about their marriage. After dinner, they had an argument that escalated and de-escalated throughout the night.
Christopher Lalchan was shot in the back of the head, and when police arrived on the scene they found a gun and three shell casings on the floor — from one shot fired into the kitchen, one next to Christopher Lalchan’s head, and the third fired into his head.
Diana Lalchan, then 27, was arrested later that day on a charge of first-degree murder while armed.
She was originally convicted of voluntary manslaughter while armed and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence on March 28, 2019, and scheduled for sentencing in June 2019.
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