Thurman v. City of Torrington

Last updated
Tracy Thurman v. City of Torrington
Connecticut blank.svg
Court United States District Court for the District of Connecticut
Full case nameTracy Thurman v. City of Torrington, et al
DecidedJune 25 1985
Citation(s)595 F.Supp. 1521 (C.D.1 1984)
Local police of the City of Torrington ignored domestic violence reports pertaining to the husband of Tracey Thurman and further failed to enforce a court ordered restraining order. The court further finds that the City of Torrington did not maintain a standard policy of legal discrimination against all women.
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingSenior District Judge Blumenfeld
Laws applied
Connecticut Family Violence Prevention and Response Act of 1986

Thurman v. City of Torrington, DC, 595 F.Supp. 1521 (1985) was a court decision concerning Tracey Thurman, a Connecticut homemaker who sued the city police department in Torrington, Connecticut, and claimed a failure of equal protection under the law against her abusive husband Charles "Buck" Thurman, Sr.



In 1982, Tracey Thurman left her husband, Charles "Buck" Thurman, after a brief but violent marriage. [1] She took with her their only child, Charles Jr. [1] For eight months, the couple lived apart while Buck harassed Tracy and verbally threatened to kill her. [1]

In November 1982, Buck forcibly entered the home Tracey was staying at and removed Charles Jr. [2] Charles Jr. was returned to his mother, but the police refused to accept a complaint of criminal trespass from the homeowner. [2]

Four days later, Buck stood in front of Tracey's car on a public street and verbally threatened her. Although there was a police officer nearby, he did not intervene until Buck broke the windshield of Tracey's car with his fist. [2] Buck was convicted of breach of the peace and received a six-month suspended sentence with a two-year conditional discharge. [3] He was ordered to stay away from Tracey, but within weeks, Buck resumed threatening Tracey. [3] Tracey reported the behavior to police, but no effort was made to arrest Buck. [2]

Between January and May 1983, Buck made numerous threats to Tracey, violating the court order. She reported these threats to police, but no action was taken. On five separate occasions in May 1983, Tracey appeared at the Torrington Police Station to request the arrest of her husband because of his repeated threats of violence. The police gave Tracey various excuses for their inaction including "the officer who has your case is on vacation." [2]

On May 6, 1983, Tracey filed for and was granted a restraining order against Buck. [4]

On June 10, 1983, Buck arrived at the house Tracey was staying at and demanded to see her. [2] Tracey remained inside and contacted the police. [2] Fifteen minutes later, with no officer in sight, Tracey exited the house to speak to Buck. [2] It was only 25 min after Tracey's call a single officer arrived, [1] who sat in his car while Buck chased Tracey, grabbed her by the hair, and stabbed her over 20 times. [1]

The officer eventually exited the car and took the knife from Buck but made no effort to arrest him. While the officer watched, Buck kicked Tracey in the head several times, breaking her neck. Buck then ran into the house, grabbed Charles Jr. and took him outside. Buck dropped Charles Jr. on Tracey's limp body and once again kicked her in the head. [2]

Roughly 40 min after the police arrived, Tracey was loaded into an ambulance. Buck threatened Tracey one more time and was finally arrested. [1] [2]

Buck was convicted of assault and sentenced to 20 years but served less than eight years in prison. [5]

Tracey Thurman spent eight months in the hospital. She is partially paralyzed to this day. [2]

The case was brought by attorney Burton M. Weinstein, who is well known for his work involving police misconduct, and his associate Judith A. Mauzaka. [6] When the lawsuit was filed in 1984, Tracey Thurman became the first woman in America to sue a town individually and its police department for violating her civil rights and claimed the police had ignored the violence because she was married to the perpetrator. [6]

The case was allowed to proceed in a ruling by Senior Judge M. Joseph Blumenfeld, who had been appointed to the bench by US President John Kennedy in 1961. [7] The claim survived a motion to dismiss, which asserted that it had not asserted a constitutionally-based claim of a violation of equal protection. The claim was that by practice and custom or by the custom over months of failing to address the complaints of a single victim of domestic violence, the plaintiff as a woman and victim of domestic violence was being afforded differential treatment than other victims of violence, which made a viable constitutional claim for damages. The motion to dismiss was denied, and the case was allowed to proceed. [8]

The district court found that "a pattern of affording inadequate protection, or no protection at all, to women who have complained of being abused by their husbands... is tantamount to an administrative classification used to implement the law in a discriminatory fashion." [9]

Tracey Thurman was awarded $2.3 million [6] but eventually settled for $1.9 million when the city agreed to forgo an appeal. [5] [9]


The Thurman lawsuit brought about sweeping national reform of domestic violence laws, including the "Thurman Law" (aka the Family Violence Prevention and Response Act) instituted in Connecticut in 1986, which mandates police make arrests in domestic violence cases even if the victim does not wish to press charges. [10]

The large financial penalty against the City of Torrington in the Thurman case was widely reported in the popular press and in academic journals. [11] Police departments were forced by financial fear to change how they handled domestic violence. [10] [11]

Tracey Thurman's story was later made into a 1989 television movie, entitled A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story , starring Nancy McKeon as Tracey, Dale Midkiff as Buck, Bruce Weitz as Tracey's lawyer Burton Weinstein, and Philip Baker Hall as presiding Judge Blumenfeld.

Similar cases

See also

Related Research Articles

Restraining order Legal order prohibiting certain entities from specified actions

A restraining order or protective order, abbreviated PFA, is an order used by a court to protect a person, object, business, company, state, country, establishment, or entity, and the general public, in a situation involving alleged domestic violence, child abuse, assault, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault. In the United States, every state has some form of domestic violence restraining order law, and many states also have specific restraining order laws for stalking and sexual assault.

Torrington, Connecticut City in Connecticut, United States

Torrington is the most populated municipality and only city in Litchfield County, Connecticut and the Northwest Hills region. It is also the core city of Greater Torrington, one of the largest micropolitan areas in the United States. The city population was 36,383 according to the 2010 census.

Robert John Bardo is an American man serving life imprisonment without parole after being convicted in October 1991 for the July 18, 1989, murder of American actress and model Rebecca Schaeffer, whom he had stalked for three years.

With respect to human trafficking, Saudi Arabia was designated, together with Bolivia, Ecuador, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Burma, Jamaica, Venezuela, Cambodia, Kuwait, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea, and Togo, as a Tier 3 country by the United States Department of State in its 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report required by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 on which this article was originally based. Tier 3 countries are "countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so." The 2006 report shows some effort by the Kingdom to address the problems, but continues to classify the Kingdom as a Tier 3 country. The report recommends, "The government should enforce existing Islamic laws that forbid the mistreatment of women, children, and laborers..."

Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled, 7–2, that a town and its police department could not be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for failing to enforce a restraining order, which had led to the murder of a woman's three children by her estranged husband.

Alexandra Cabot Fictional character on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Alexandra "Alex" Cabot is a fictional character within the Law & Order universe portrayed by Stephanie March. She is a primary character in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Conviction.

Current issues concerning human rights in Albania include domestic violence, isolated cases of torture, and police brutality, the general condition of prisons, human and sex trafficking and LGBT rights.

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to protect women from domestic violence. It was brought into force by the Indian government and Ministry of Women and Child Development on 26 October 2006. The Act provides a definition of "domestic violence" for the first time in Indian law, with this definition being broad and including not only physical violence, but also other forms of violence such as emotional/verbal, sexual, and economic abuse. It is a civil law meant primarily for protection orders, rather than criminal enforcement.

<i>A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story</i>

A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story is a 1989 American made-for-television drama film based on the 1985 ruling Thurman v. City of Torrington. The film stars Nancy McKeon as Tracey; Dale Midkiff as Buck; and Bruce Weitz as Tracey's lawyer, Burton Weinstein.

Domestic violence in the United States

Domestic violence in United States is a form of violence that occurs within a domestic relationship. Although domestic violence often occurs between partners in the context of an intimate relationship, it may also describe other household violence, such as violence against a child, by a child against a parent or violence between siblings in the same household. It is recognized as an important social problem by governmental and non-governmental agencies, and various Violence Against Women Acts have been passed by the US Congress in an attempt to stem this tide.

Rape is a criminal offence in Pakistan. Punishment for rape in Pakistan under the Pakistani laws is either death penalty or imprisonment of between ten and twenty-five years. For cases related to gang rape, the punishment is either death penalty or life imprisonment. DNA test and other scientific evidence are used in prosecuting rape cases in Pakistan.

In Maryland v. King, 569 U.S. 435 (2013), the United States Supreme Court decided that a cheek swab of an arrestee's DNA is comparable to fingerprinting and therefore, a legal police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

Domestic violence is prominent in Nigeria as in many parts of Africa. There is a deep cultural belief in Nigeria that it is socially acceptable to hit a woman to discipline a spouse. Cases of Domestic violence is on the high and shows no signs of reduction in Nigeria, regardless of the age, tribe, religion or even social status. The CLEEN Foundation reports 1 in every 3 respondents admitting to being a victim of domestic violence. The survey also found a nationwide increase in domestic violence in the past 3 years from 21% in 2011 to 30% in 2013. A CLEEN Foundation's 2012 National Crime and Safety Survey demonstrated that 31% of the national sample confessed to being victims of domestic violence.

Rosie Batty

Rosemary Anne "Rosie" Batty, is an English-born Australian domestic violence campaigner and the 2015 Australian of the Year. Her role as a campaigner began in 2014 after her 11-year-old son Luke Batty was murdered by his father, Greg Anderson.

Violence against women in Fiji is recognised to be "pervasive, widespread and a serious national issue" in the Pacific Island region. Fiji's rates of violence against women are "among the very highest in the world". The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre reports that 64% of women who have been in intimate relationships have experienced physical or sexual violence from their partner, including 61% who were physically attacked and 34% who were sexually abused.

Police brutality is the abuse of authority by the unwarranted infliction of excessive force by personnel involved in law enforcement while performing their official duties. Police brutality can also include psychological harm through the use of intimidation tactics beyond the scope of officially sanctioned police procedure. In the United States, Native Americans experience disproportionately high amounts of violence from law enforcement.

2017 Marathon County spree shooting 2017 spree shooting in Schofield and Rothschild, Wisconsin, USA

The 2017 Marathon County spree shooting occurred in Marathon County, Wisconsin in the towns of Schofield and Rothschild, on March 22, 2017. The perpetrator, Nengmy Vang, upset following a dispute with his wife, fatally shot two employees at the bank where she worked, his wife's lawyer, and a police officer. After a three-hour standoff, Vang was shot by police officers and later died from his wounds.

Domestic violence in South Korea Domestic violence directed against women in South Korea

Domestic violence in South Korea is the mental, physical, verbal or sexual abuses or crimes of violence committed towards a victim in a domestic setting of marital relations and cohabitation. Domestic violence describes violence towards a domestic partner, towards children and between siblings. According to the Domestic Violence Survey of South Korea in 2010, elder abuse was estimated to be 10%, physical abuse accounted for 2.2%, emotional abuse 9%, economic abuse 1.2%, and neglect 2.5%. Marital violence has been the most prevalent form of family violence in South Korea. One out of six couples in South Korea had more than one episode of physical violence from their spouse.

The term boyfriend loophole refers to a gap in American federal and some state gun laws that allows access to guns by adjudicated dating abusers. While federal law and many states' laws restrict firearm access by respondents to final protective orders and domestic violence misdemeanants, the federal prohibition on firearm possession by an intimate partner only applies if parties are current or former spouses, current or former cohabitants, or share a child in common. People who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence against a dating partner and respondents to final dating violence protective orders are not prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms, nor are prohibited in many states from possessing firearms. Approximately half of intimate partner homicides are committed by abusive dating partners, and dating violence comprises approximately 80% of domestic violence law enforcement contacts.

Jennifers' Law is a law in the U.S. state of Connecticut that expands the definition of domestic violence to include "coercive control". The law is named for two women: Jennifer Farber Dulos and Jennifer Magnano.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jones, Ann (2000). Next Time, She'll be Dead: Battering & how to Stop it. Beacon Press. ISBN   978-0-8070-6789-5.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Muraskin, Roslyn (2005-09-27). Women and Justice. Routledge. ISBN   978-1-135-30003-6.
  3. 1 2 Sipe, Beth; Hall, Evelyn J. (2013-07-01). I Am Not Your Victim: Anatomy of Domestic Violence. SAGE Publications. ISBN   978-1-4833-2234-6.
  4. Richardson, Chris (2020-08-31). Violence in American Society: An Encyclopedia of Trends, Problems, and Perspectives [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. ISBN   978-1-4408-5468-2.
  5. 1 2 "Convicted Wife-Beater Whose Case Led To Landmark Decision Released from Jail". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  6. 1 2 3 "Tracey Thurman Motuzick".
  7. New York Times url=
  8. "Untitled Document".
  9. 1 2 Kurst-Swanger, Karel; Kurst-Swanger, Assistant Professor of Department of Public Justice Karel; Petcosky, Jacqueline L. (2003). Violence in the Home: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-515114-5.
  10. 1 2 "Thurman v. City of Torrington". Retrieved 2011-09-04.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Zorza, Joan (1992). "The Criminal Law of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence, 1970-1990". The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology. 83: 1. doi:10.2307/1143824. JSTOR   1143824.