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College Park woman's manslaughter case based solely on 911 call

A 48-year-old College Park woman is currently being tried on the charge of "manslaughter with a weapon," and the case has brought up a number of questions about what behavior should be expected from someone who may be a victim of domestic violence. Based on reports of the prosecutor's opening statement on Monday, the manslaughter case is built entirely around the woman's 911 call after her boyfriend died.

According to news reports, prosecutors believe that what the woman said in her 911 call and statements she made later to police are inconsistent. "Did he shoot himself, yes or no? No. No. It was like self defense and then an accident," the Assistant State Attorney told the jury. The idea is that the concepts of suicide, self-defense and an accidental shooting are mutually exclusive. But what if they're not?

The incident occurred in July 2011. According to the woman's attorney, late in the evening of July 26, the boyfriend or both were drunk. The couple had an argument and the boyfriend left. Even the prosecutor admitted this wasn't their first fight in which the boyfriend was intoxicated.

He came back early the next morning. As she had told her boyfriend, she had a gun to defend herself from intruders, so he shouldn't show up unexpectedly. Indeed, her lawyer said, she thought he was an intruder and took out the gun. Discovering it was her boyfriend, she apparently left the gun in her bedroom.

The boyfriend told her he was going to kill himself -- which is common in abusive relationships. She didn't believe he was serious about hurting himself, but and picked up the gun and even pointed it at his own head. They struggled, and the gun went off. He was shot in the head.

No physical evidence has yet been introduced that could prove whether the shooting was intentional or a result of the events described. Barring that, the prosecutor told the jury to decide whether the defendant can be believed.

"You're going to need to determine this case based on the credibility of [her] statements," she said.

The defendant's charges have already been reduced from murder to manslaughter. However, if this woman is convicted of manslaughter with a weapon, she could face up to 30 years in prison. Given that penalty, is a perceived inconsistency in her statements enough for the prosecution to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?

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