A Connecticut jury on Thursday found 24-year-old Cherelle Baldwin not guilty of murder in the death of her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Brown after she had spent nearly three years behind bars.
Baldwin had faced murder charges. The jury could have decided to convict her of a lesser charge, such as manslaughter or negligent homicide, which would carry a lesser penalty. But, following a two-week trial, the jury acquitted her of all charges, allowing her to walk out of court a free woman.
Baldwin and Brown had split in early 2013. But ending the relationship did not end Brown’s harassment, threats, and abuse of Baldwin, with whom he shared a son, according to Baldwin’s mother, Cynthia Long. In February 2013, Brown was arrested for a breach of peace after he came to Baldwin’s house and threw her clothes out the window. When she tried to call for help, he attempted to break her phone. Baldwin was eventually granted a court order of protection against him.
On the morning of May 18, 2013, after sending a series of threatening text messages, Brown broke into Baldwin’s apartment. According to Baldwin’s statements in a police affidavit, Brown attacked her, choking her with his belt. Baldwin escaped, running outside and into her car. Brown followed. “He managed to get in the car and proceeded to choke her again,” the affidavit read. “Then she got out and fell as she did and the car ran over her leg and that he also got out to chase her[,] and the rest happen[ed] too fast and she wasn’t sure how he ended up in front of the car.”
Brown died before reaching the hospital. Their baby son was in the house, unharmed. Baldwin was taken to a different hospital with a broken leg. Three weeks later, she was charged with murder. Bond was set at $1 million, an amount that her family was unable to afford. Baldwin was sent to the state women’s prison to await her day in court. She faced 60 years in prison.
This was Baldwin’s second time in court for those charges. Her six-week trial in 2015 ended in a hung jury. After five days of deliberating, 11 jurors wanted to either consider lesser charges or acquit Baldwin altogether, but one juror held out. The judge declared a mistrial and the prosecutor vowed to retry her case.
On Thursday afternoon, Baldwin’s family was able to bring her home. For the first time in almost three years, she will be able to see her nearly 5-year-old son outside a prison visiting room.
Baldwin’s mother, Long, told Rewire that she was overwhelmed with joy at her daughter’s acquittal. However, she said, the law should have not only protected Baldwin, but also gotten Brown into counseling for domestic violence after his arrest in February 2013.
“We have to see the laws changed,” she said. “We need to change the law in Connecticut. So that’s what’s next for me and Cherelle.”