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, claiming 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 this behavior to police, but no effort was made to arrest Buck. [2]

Between January and May of 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 requesting the arrest of her husband due to 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] Twenty five minutes after Tracey's call a single officer arrived. [1] The officer sat in his car while Buck chased Tracey, grabbed her by the hair and stabbed her over twenty times. [1]

The officer eventually exited the car and took the knife from Buck, but he 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 brought him outside. Buck dropped Charles Jr. on Tracey's limp body and once again kicked her in the head. [2]

Roughly forty minutes 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, 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 individually sue a town and its police department for violating her civil rights, claiming 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 President 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 either by practice and custom, or the custom over months of failing to address the complaints of a single victim of domestic violence, that the plaintiff as a woman and victim of domestic violence was being afforded differential treatment than other victims of violence, hence making a viable constitutional claim for damages. The Motion to Dismiss was denied, 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, [10] 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. [11]

The large financial penalty against the City of Torrington in the Thurman case was widely reported in the popular press and in academic journals. [12] Police departments were forced by financial fear to change how they handled domestic violence. [11] [12]

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.

See also

Related Research Articles

Restraining order order used by a court to protect a person or entity

A restraining order or protective order 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 largest 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.

The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) was a United States federal law signed as Pub.L. 103–322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994. The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.

Office on Violence Against Women

The United States Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) was created following the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. The Act was renewed in 2005 and again in 2013. The Violence Against Women Act legislation requires the Office on Violence Against Women to work to respond to and reduce violence against women in many different areas, including on college campuses and in people's homes. VAWA requires Office on Violence Against Women to administer justice and strengthen services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Self-defence is a defence permitting reasonable force to be used to defend one's self or another. This defence arises both from common law and the Criminal Law Act 1967. Self-defence is a justification defence rather than an excuse.

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 Act of the Parliament of India

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 from 26 October 2006. The Act provides for the first time in Indian law a definition of "domestic violence", 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 and not for meant to be enforced criminally.

Kiranjit Ahluwalia is an Indian woman who came to international attention after burning her husband to death in 1992 in the UK. She claimed it was in response to ten years of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. After initially being convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, Ahluwalia's conviction was later overturned on grounds of inadequate counsel and replaced with voluntary manslaughter. Although her submission of provocation failed, she successfully pleaded the partial defence of diminished responsibility under s.2 Homicide Act 1957 on the grounds that fresh medical evidence may indicate diminished mental responsibility.

Specialized domestic violence courts are designed to improve victim safety and enhance defendant accountability. They emerged as a problem-solving court in the 1980s and 1990s in response to frustration among victim advocates, judges and attorneys who saw the same litigants cycling through the justice system again and again.

Domestic violence in Tajikistan is very high, due to traditional Tajik muslim family values, as well as a reluctance by the authorities to intervene in what is viewed in Tajikistan as a "private family matter".

Evidence-based prosecution' refers to a collection of techniques utilized by prosecutors in domestic violence cases to convict abusers without the cooperation of an alleged victim. It is widely practiced within the American legal system by specialized prosecutors and state's attorneys and relies on utilizing a variety of evidence to prove the guilt of an abuser with limited or adverse participation by the abuser's victim, or even no participation at all.

Eswatini is a source, destination, and transit country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically commercial sexual exploitation, involuntary domestic servitude, and forced labor in agriculture. Swazi girls, particularly orphans, are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary domestic servitude in the cities of Mbabane and Manzini, as well as in South Africa and Mozambique.

<i>A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story</i> 1989 film by Robert Markowitz

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.

Rosie Batty Australian domestic violence campaigner and the 2015 Australian of the Year

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.

Dowry system in India dowry system

The dowry system in India refers to the durable goods, cash, and real or movable property that the bride's family gives to the bridegroom, his parents and his relatives as a condition of the marriage. Dowry stemmed from India's skewed inheritance laws, and the Hindu Succession Act needed to be amended to stop the routine disinheritance of daughters. Dowry is essentially in the nature of a payment in cash or some kind of gifts given to the bridegroom's family along with the bride and includes cash, jewellery, electrical appliances, furniture, bedding, crockery, utensils, vehicles and other household items that help the newlyweds set up their home. Dowry is referred to as Dahez in Arabic. In the far eastern parts of India, dowry is called Aaunnpot.

2017 Schofield/Rothschild spree shooting 2017 spree shooting in Schofield and Rothschild, Wisconsin, USA

The 2017 Schofield-Rothschild shootings were a series of shootings that 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.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence Aspect of viral outbreak

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic many countries have reported an increase in domestic violence and intimate partner violence. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, noting the "horrifying global surge", has called for a domestic violence "ceasefire".


  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
  7. New York Times url=
  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.
  11. 1 2 "Thurman v. City of Torrington". Retrieved 2011-09-04.
  12. 1 2 3 4 Zorza, Joan (1992). "The Criminal Law of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence, 1970-1990". The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology. 83: 1.