A Sonoma County judge Wednesday upheld the maximum 21-year manslaughter prison sentence of a woman who claimed she killed her ex-boyfriend on Thanksgiving night nearly 10 years ago because she was battered and traumatized during their relationship. Debi Lynn Zuver was charged with the murder of 43-year-old Kim Kendall Garloff, who was shot twice in the head as he reclined on a couch in Zuver’s Santa Rosa apartment on Nov. 23, 2000. The prosecution alleged she killed Garloff because he wanted to end their relationship. Zuver claimed Garloff was the aggressor and she shot him with a .31-caliber handgun in self-defense. Zuver’s roommate Sherri Novello, however, testified at a 2001 preliminary hearing that Zuver stood over Garloff, told him to “shut up and die” and mimicked the gurgling sounds he made as he lay dying. Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Elliot Daum held her over for trial on the murder and use of a gun charges. Before trial, Zuver pleaded no contest on Nov. 2, 2001, to voluntary manslaughter and admitted to the use of a gun. Voluntary manslaughter is punishable by a three-, six- or 11-year term. At sentencing in 2002, Deputy Public Defender Steve Fabian sought the six-year term for voluntary manslaughter and a mid-range term of four years for use of a gun, Assistant Sonoma County District Attorney Diana Gomez said. Fabian claimed Zuver suffered from “battered women’s syndrome” in which a woman believes the violence is her fault, fears for her life and believes her abuser is omnipresent and omniscient. Both Judge Daum and the Sonoma County Probation Department rejected the battered women’s syndrome defense. The probation department’s pre-sentence report said Zuver used the battered women’s defense to escape responsibility for her actions. Daum said the syndrome “can be used in an abusive and inappropriate way,” and he sentenced Zuver to 11 years for voluntary manslaughter and a consecutive, maximum 10-year term for use of a gun. Zuver unsuccessfully appealed her sentence in the state Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court over the past 10 years, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said. On Dec. 2, 2009, Fabian filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with Judge Arthur Wick, challenging the 11-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter. Fabian said changes in the law since Zuver’s sentencing now require a jury to find that any facts used to impose the aggravated or maximum term are either beyond a reasonable doubt or admitted to by the defendant. He said the guidelines should apply retroactively to Zuver’s 2002 sentencing, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said. Fabian asked Wick to reduce Zuver’s sentence to the middle term of six years for voluntary manslaughter and four years for use of a gun. A hearing was held July 1, and Wick rejected the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Wednesday afternoon. Had Wick granted the petition, Zuver would have been released from prison almost immediately because current law allows an inmate to serve only 85 percent of their sentence on such violent crimes, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said. Zuver also received 472 days credit at sentencing for time she had already served in the Sonoma County jail. Deputy District Attorney Robert Maddock argued against reducing
Zuver’s sentence before Judge Wick. “This was and still is an egregious case, and it called for the maximum sentence to be imposed,” assistant district attorney Gomez said. “We are pleased that every court to hear the defendant’s various claims over the
last ten years has rejected them.” Fabian was not immediately available for comment on Wick’s ruling.
Copyright © 2010 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.