Victim of battered-spouse syndrome gets clemency Last of 12 candidates may go free in Feb.

August 30, 1991|By David Simon

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has reduced the sentence of another woman who contends that she murdered a man because of battered-spouse syndrome -- the 11th such case in which the governor has granted clemency.

Marie Lake, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1982 death of her boyfriend, is now eligible for immediate parole as a result of the governor's decision. At a hearing this month, she was told she will be released from prison next February.

"I couldn't be happier," said Ms. Lake, the only one of 12 commutation candidates considered by the governor in February still await state action. "As the last of the 'dirty dozen,' I was afraid that I was going to be forgotten."

Lake, a former prostitute, was sentenced to life with all but 30 years suspended for the beating and strangulation death of Charles Reuwer, 39, her boyfriend and pimp.

At her trial, Lake, 47, maintained her innocence, and only after years of incarceration did she begin to speak of the domestic violence that she said had prompted the killing. However, two lawyers associated with the case have offered corroboration of prior abuse by Mr. Reuwer -- though neither attorney was contacted as part of the commutation investigation.

Ms. Lake was among four women denied commutation by the governor in February, when he announced the release of eight others to great fanfare. Controversy followed the announcement when it was learned that evidence in three commutation cases contradicted the women's accounts.

One of the three women may have killed her husband for insurance money; a second threatened a potential witness after being released on bail; and a third could provide no corroboration of any abuse by the husband she killed, nor was any discovered by investigators.

But the cases of Marie Lake and the other three women originally denied commutation offered no similar problems. Corroboration of abuse was available in three of the cases, and the governor's office insisted that it existed in the fourth case, but declined to reveal it.

This summer, two of the remaining four women -- Gale Hawkins and Carolyn Sue Wallace -- were released from the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. A third -- Joyce Danna -- was denied commutation after a Baltimore County judge reconsidered her evidence of abuse, then affirmed her sentence.

In Lake's case, the governor amended her sentence to a straight 30-year term, which allows her to be immediately eligible for a parole that would otherwise would not be available to her until 1994, officials said.

Lake's commutation was supported by the original sentencing judge, Elsbeth L. Bothe of the Baltimore Circuit Court, who said she believes that Lake was abused. Lake's release next February will hinge on her getting an acceptable job, a place to live and completion of a work-release program.

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