In 2017, Nicole (Nikki) Addimando, a loving and proud mother of two young children from Poughkeepsie, NY, was enduring unspeakable violence at the hands of her children’s father, Chris. He regularly subjected Nikki to sadistic sexual and physical violence, threats, and psychological and emotional abuse. One night, Chris brandished a gun and threatened to kill Nikki then himself, leaving their children without parents. Nikki used the gun against Chris, killing him in self-defense.
At trial the prosecution argued that, if Nikki was abused at all, it must have been self-inflicted or at the hands of someone other than her partner; or if this extreme violence was perpetrated by Chris, it must have been consensual; or if it was not consensual, Nikki could have simply left him. In April 2020, a jury convicted Nikki of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Nikki was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison.
On the evening of October 27th, we welcomed Kamil Shields, an integral member of the team at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, that represented Nikki in her appellate case, obtaining a resentencing for Nikki under New York’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA). Together, Kamil and DCVLP Board member, Heather Lamberg, discussed the credibility discount survivors face in court, the ways in which survival is criminalized, and how the justice system can address society’s flawed understanding of domestic violence.