Kathryn Spiak told a judge Thursday she lied to detectives about the details of how she stabbed her boyfriend to death because she didn’t know he was fatally injured and didn’t want him to get in trouble for beating her.
“I wanted to make it look like we were having a mutual fight,” Spiak testified in a hearing on her petition to change her second-degree murder plea in the Dec. 8, 2010, killing of Jeremy Jones. “He had two strikes and one on the way.”
Jones, 32, did have a couple of domestic-violence convictions on his record. It wasn’t clear, however, if they added up to the kind of prior felonies that could have put him in prison for life if he was found guilty of beating Spiak in the fight that left him sprawled bloody and lifeless in their Rancho Cordova apartment with two knife wounds to the chest.
Spiak, now 43, said she agreed to the second-degree plea after her lawyer at the time, Richard Corbin, told her he saw a videotape of her interview with Sacramento County sheriff’s detectives and he told her he didn’t think a self-defense case would work.
She said Corbin didn’t tell her about the possibility of a defense that she had battered woman’s syndrome. Deputy District Attorney Carlton Davis, in his cross-examination of Spiak, suggested that Corbin said in a declaration that he did have that conversation with her, and she confirmed under the prosecutor’s cross-examination that the defense lawyer had a therapist examine her with a battered woman’s defense in mind.
Under questioning from her new lawyer, Kelly Babineau, Spiak testified in her petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Sacramento Superior Court that Jones had been abusing her for months. The night she killed him, Spiak said he grabbed her by the hair, tried to thumb her eye out, ripped her top off and was trying to throw her out of their apartment on La Loma Drive.
“He wasn’t human that night,” Spiak testified, in front of Judge Raoul M. Thorbourne.
Spiak said Jones threw her naked out of their apartment so many times, she usually kept a change of garments hidden outside.
The night she killed him, Spiak said she didn’t think Jones would calm down “so I decided I was going to fight back.” She said the battle lasted for what “seemed like hours.” She said she was able to break away from his hold and retrieve a knife off the kitchen counter as the fight continued.
“I picked it up and told him to get out and he moved forward and everything kind of went blurry,” she testified.
In her interview with sheriff’s detectives, she said she had stabbed their bed a couple times to practice before she actually plunged the knife into his chest. She also told them he was lying down on their hideaway bed and told her to kill him, that he wanted to die, and that right before she stabbed him, she told him, “I don’t know if this is going to do the trick.”
All that was a lie, Spiak testified Thursday, based, she said, on her concern about Jones becoming a three-striker and being sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Davis, the prosecutor, hit hard on the inconsistencies between Spiak’s new story and pictures of the physical evidence that showed gobs of bright red blood on the bed where she first said she stabbed him and none of it in the kitchen area where she testified Thursday that she had stabbed him.
Asked by the prosecutors about her statements to the detectives, Spiak testified, “I wasn’t coherent. I didn’t understand where I was at the time. I was in shock.”
Spiak answered “absolutely not” when Babineau asked if she would have entered her no-contest plea to the second-degree murder charge if she knew that a battered woman’s defense would have been possible. Under the deal, Spiak was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.
She admitted on cross-examination, however, that a therapist her initial attorney sent to see her in jail did discuss battered woman’s syndrome with her. Spiak said the therapist “never asked me detailed questions” but that they discussed Jones’ prior alleged batteries on her. She also said the therapist “got me distraught and I thought she was working for the DA, for you, and I didn’t want to give her anything.”
In petitioning the court, Spiak testified, “I just want to explain my side of the story.” Asked by Davis if she still thinks it’s her fault Jones died, Spiak, who had apologized to the man’s family at the time of her sentencing, answered, “Yes. I take responsibility. I stabbed him.”
Spiak did not finish her testimony Thursday. Judge Thorbourne scheduled another session for Tuesday, when he will set additional hearing dates for testimony before he rules on Spiak’s petition.