Tari Ramirez now goes by the name Tare Beltran. In 2000, he murdered his ex-girlfriend, Claire Joyce Tempongko, in front of her children. The murder outraged those in the domestic violence community because Beltran had a documented history of domestic violence against her and was on probation.
Beltran, a Mexican citizen who had been working as a dishwasher, fled to Mexico after the killing. He was arrested there in 2006, brought back to San Francisco for trial and found guilty of second-degree murder in 2008. "It gave the family closure. It was what we believed was just based on the evidence," prosecutor Liz Aguilar Tarchi said.
However, Beltran's conviction was overturned by a state appeals court. His attorney had argued Beltran was provoked by the victim when she told him she was pregnant and had had an abortion. Because this sent him over the edge, his attorney claims, it should have been manslaughter and not murder. They are asking for another trial and Beltran remains in custody.
"Well he should have gotten instruction that was correct on manslaughter and the argument here is the instruction that he got wasn't right," said Rory Little, professor at UC Hastings College of the Law.
Now, the California Supreme Court must decide if the original conviction should be upheld. "It doesn't matter what instruction he got, right or wrong, the evidence was overwhelmingly that it was second-degree murder and shouldn't reverse his conviction," Little said.
"I think it sends a message that domestic violence in itself is not as serious, or that there may be provocations from certain things that a victim could say that would somehow make her death more understandable and certainly we find that concerning," said Beverly Upton, spokesperson for the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium.
The high court's seven justices will have three months after Tuesday's hearing to issue a ruling.