|On June 18,
2002, in the first ever monetary award by law enforcement for their
failure to protect a domestic violence victim leading up to her homicide,
the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department agreed to pay a million
dollar settlement in the landmark federal civil rights lawsuit of
Maria Teresa Macias vs. Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Ihde.
came mid-trial at the close of dramatic testimony by Sara Rubio
Hernandez detailing more than 20 attempts by her daughter, Maria
Teresa Macias, to get help with her violent estranged husband, Avelino.
outlined her daughter's repeated reports to the Sheriff Dept. of
Avelinos multiple felony crimes including his sexual assaults
of Teresa and her children, his constant obsessive stalking, repeated
threats to kill and restraining order violations. The Sheriff's
Department never once arrested or cited Avelino Macias. After deputies
ignored more than twenty reports in just the last few months of
her life, Avelino fatally shot Teresa, then shot and seriously wounded
her mother, Sara, on April 15, 1996.
This landmark federal
civil rights lawsuit, filed in October 1996 claimed that 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, women's rights to
sue law enforcement when they fail to act.
With todays testimony
and the historic damages award, Sara Rubio Hernadez said, I
have fulfilled my daughters wish. Shortly before her death,
Teresa told her mother, If I die I want you to tell the world
what happened to me. I dont want other women to suffer as I
have suffered. I want them to be listened to.
The settlement sends
a resounding message to law enforcement around the country that
they can no longer ignore domestic violence victims with impunity.
And it sends an equally forceful message to women everywhere, that
they have a constitutional right to hold law enforcement accountable
when law enforcement refuses to act.