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Groups Angered Over Alleged Phrase

Last month Cox, president of the Walmsley Terrace Tenant Association, attended the trial of Niyyah Muhammad, who had been accused of killing her boyfriend on Aug. 24 of last year.

After nearly three hours of deliberation, the jury at Manchester Courthouse was unable to determine whether Muhammad, 23, had murdered her boyfriend, Orin Dobson, or if she had acted in self- defense. Judge Buford M. Parsons, Jr. called a mistrial. The case will be the subject of a new trial to begin July 24.

Cox hopes to use the new trial as an opportunity to address the remark she claims the assistant commonwealth's attorney made, insisting that it is insensitive toward and diminishes the gravity of domestic violence.

Christopher Collins, the defense attorney who is representing Muhammad, says he does not remember Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Jagels ever having made such a comment. Collins had not received a copy of the transcript at press time.

Reached by phone, Jagels deferred comment to Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks. Hicks could not be reached by press time.

Niyyah Muhammad's father, Fattah Muhammad, insists Jagels made the "choking a woman is not domestic violence" statement saying: "Those were his exact words. I heard it clear as day with my own two ears. It was one of the last things he said to try to convince the jury in his closing argument."

Fattah Muhammed, who is president of what was formerly Rescue Aid Community Everywhere (R.A.C.E.) and now is called the New Africa Community, says protesting such comments is important.

"This is bigger than just my daughter's case," he says, and the fact that she's on trial for murder. "If choking a woman is not abuse, what message is that sending?" Muhammad asks, adding: "That says to me you can do anything you want to women in the city of Richmond."

— B. W.

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