A 26-year-old Aurora woman was acquitted Monday of first-degree murder charges that she stabbed her live-in boyfriend to death in November 2010 during an argument.
"This is the best case of self-defense this court has ever witnessed," said Kane County Judge Timothy Sheldon in announcing his not guilty decision for Faith M. Martin.
Martin, who spent 19 months in jail while awaiting trial for the death of Willie J. Arrington, 44, on Nov. 21, 2010, sobbed uncontrollably and hugged Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress after the verdict.
During the five-day trial before Sheldon, Childress called a virtual parade of police, men and women, including Arrington's ex-wife, who testified that Arrington was an abusive, violent man with a drinking and drug problem whose rage could not be controlled.
Martin took the stand Monday, saying that Arrington had abused her in the past.
The two had an argument on that November day and Arrington began punching and choking her as he pushed her around the apartment they shared on the 400 block of North River Street.
Martin said she retreated into the kitchen and grabbed a knife, and Arrington kept coming at her, slamming her into a wall and pushing her down near a closet.
"I thought he would kill me. He would just not stop," testified Martin, who said she put her left hand up to block her face and brought her right hand, which held the knife, down toward Arrington.
He died of a single stab wound to the chest which pierced his aorta.
Martin said she didn't use much force with the knife and retreated down the hallway as her head throbbed. She didn't know how badly Arrington was hurt when she went to her neighbor's apartment, called Arrington's mom and then called police.
Prosecutors questioned why Martin didn't initially tell police she feared for her life when she stabbed Arrington.
But Sheldon, in his verdict, said Martin's testimony was credible and convincing.
"She appeared very honest," Sheldon said. "She did not make any attempt to embellish her testimony."
Martin's children, 3 and 7, had been staying with relatives during while Martin was held on $1 million bail pending trial.
"They came to visit her at the jail. But that's through glass. Tonight, she gets to hug them," Childress said, adding that authorities rushed to judgment in arresting and charging Martin. "I should never have a case this good because somebody's been to jail that shouldn't have (been put there)." Martin's mother, Jackie, said she encouraged her daughter to not give up.
"I am just so elated. I'm so glad this is over. It's been a nightmare," Jackie Martin said after the verdict. "I kept my faith. I told my daughter every day, 'Your name is Faith and your name stands for something.' The truth will be revealed."