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tv   Nightline  ABC  December 18, 2021 12:37am-1:07am PST

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this is "nightline." >> tonight, call for clemency. >> i think a lot of women see themselves in nikki. they see themselves as a mother, as a survivor. >> the young mother found guilty of killing her alleged abuser. why her case is offering others hope. >> it will place pressure on prosecutors across the united states to really rethink their strategy and to stop prosecuting criminalized survivors. plus, ben affleck. the hollywood leading man lays it out. >> i don't think there's anything all that special or particularly interesting about being a recovering alcoholic. >> his family, his life now, and what his children really think of his movies. >> one of them is like to go "i
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nightmare of abuse to a conviction to a jail cell. in an appeal for clemency that's being watched across the nation the issue is will victims of domestic violence stop being prosecuted for defending themselves? here's "nightline" co-anchor juju chang. >> reporter: they say a picture's worth a thousand words. >> she had an instagram and it recorded a super wholesome life. >> reporter: but how much can you really tell fromabout a pers life from a snapshot? online nikki addimando was the perfect portrait of a young mom. two kids, ben if & fay. smiling, goofy. >> she took amazing photos of her kids. those are like their happiest memories. >> there was a cute element to the days, and then it seems like there was a very dark element to their nights. >> reporter: out of of frame there were things she didn't share. allegations of severe physical
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and sexual abuse at the hands of her partner, the father of her children. >> according to her testimony, he took out his gun. >> he told her that he was going to shoot her and himself and leave their children alone. and nikki feared for her life. >> according to her testimony, she shot him in the head while he was lying down on the couch threatening her. >> reporter: nikki said it was self-defense. >> oh, my god. oh, my god. >> reporter: the jury found her guilty of second-degree murder. now a wide-ranging group of supporters led by nikki's sister, michelle, is urging the new york governor to commute her sentence and bring her home, a decision that could come as early as next week. they're hoping her case could pave the way for so many others. >> i think a lot of women see themselves in nikki. they see themselves as a mother, as a survivor.
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>> what kind of mom? >> she's an incredible mom. she's the best mom i know. i take all of my cues from her. i use language because i hear her use that language. >> reporter: nikki and her partner, chris grover, were raising their young family around poughkeepsie, new york. they'd met when they were both coaching gymnastics. >> there are a lot of people who say they never saw a thing but there are also a lot of people who say we saw her bruised, we saw her increasingly injured, and we didn't know what to do. >> reporter: nikki alleged that chris abused her physically and sexually for years. and although she told several people close to her and met with law enforcement at the time once officials got involved, she declined to sign the paperwork to prompt further >> 2:00 a.m. in poughkeepsie,
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and a police officer who was just out doing rounds drove up behind her and he ran the air horn. >> and that's when she came out and the police officers, hysterically and described what happened. >> he's laying on the couch. he's just laying there. >> reporter: earlier that day child protective services had visited their home after an anonymous caller reported that they noticed nikki was often bruised. >> she has testified that that day he went to work and when he came home he looked different than she'd ever seen him look before. she's testified that he took out his gun -- >> and i said i don't want to touch it. he handed me bullets. he loaded it a couple times. >> and then hours passed, according to her testimony he had sex with her against her will. >> when i thought he was asleep, i got up and i went to go get
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the kids. >> he woke up and pulled the gun from inside the couch. >> and he reached into the couch and i kneed him and it fell and i shot him. >> reporter: nikki was taken into custody, questioned and later charged with second-degree murder. it would be months before she was able to see her children. without them.e never been a day- it hurts so badly in here every day. >> i know. i know. >> and i'm only going to be able to see you guys twice a week. i don't even -- what if they don't even remember me when they come to see me? >> reporter: during the trial nikki maintained that she acted in self-defense. she even took the stand, testifying to the alleged abuse. but the prosecution questioned her credibility and said that if she were being abused she could have left. >> so the arguments that were made to the jury were basically -- you know, it's a very trite phrase to say blame the victim.
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in the area of domestic violence that's exactly what we do. because the d.a. in this case and in so many other cases take what we know is the impact of domestic violence on a survivor and use that to try to convince people not to believe the survivor. >> reporter: in closing arguments the state drove home its position that she didn't kill chris in self-defense, instead calling it intentional murder. >> what did that feel like, to hear guilty? >> it felt like the air was sucked out of the room completely. and it felt like i kind of stopped hearing sounds. there was nothing -- it was pure helplessness. >> reporter: around the time of nikki's conviction a new law was enacted in new york state. the domestic violence survivor's justice act. giving courts the discretion to shorten sentences if survivors could prove that aabuse was a contributing factor to a crime. >> ultimately, the judge made
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the decision on his own that in fact no, she had not been abused, at least by chris grover. >> reporter: that meant the law didn't apply to nikki. she was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison. >> the sentence that was handed down was, to use the appellate court's words, based on antiquated myths of domestic violence. >> reporter: new york city attorney garrett beanie took up nikki's case pro bono. he and his team putting up more than 4,000 hours on her appeal. earlier this year her sentence was reduced to 7 1/2 years. the appellate court saying the abuse history was not undetermined. instead, the defendant established through her lengthy testimony, photographs and other evidence that grover repeatedly abused her physically and sexually. and noting the abuse was a
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significant contributing factor to the defendant's criminal behavior. she's set to be released in january of 2024. >> i mean, one of the things that we discussed after getting the appellate decision with her repeatedly was her satisfaction that as a result of her situation she's been able to do something for other women. >> it's very hard for people to see somebody as a victim if they used deadly force. >> reporter: justine van der loon spent years poring through documents after the trial. her podcast, "believe her," is a deep dive into nikki's case. >> it's particularly hard for our legal system, which is so black and white and which demands perfect innocence or total guilt to understand that somebody might have killed another person but not be a murderer. >> i think we're taught that there are good people and that there are bad people, and our experience as organizers just shows that's not true. >> reporter: ashley c. sawyer is an organizer with survived and punished, a national group dedicated to ending the
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criminalization of survivors of domestic violence. >> the people who end up in the prison system whether adult or juvenile are people who have experienced some of the worst traumas that we could ever imagine. they're being punished for the ways that they found to defend themselves or to try to become free from the situation that they were in. >> reporter: ashley's organization helped michelle lay the framework for her sister's defense committee, we stand with nikki, which now has thousands of allies. >> i'm grateful for any survivor, any person facing imprisonment, to have support. i think there are other survivors who don't get the recognition. i think of crystal kaiser in kenosha, wisconsin. and i think about cyntoia brown. and we hope if nikki gets the outcome we're working toward it will also place pressure on prosecutors across the united states to really rethink their strategy and to stop prosecuting criminalized survivors. >> good to see you. >> reporter: this week nikki's team delivered a petition to
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governor kathy hochul's office. 18,000 signatures strong. >> when you see something wrong and you speak up, it really matters. and when you see people who need help and you show up, really matters. why spend your free time doing this for free? >> you don't want to be a part of a system, which i am -- sorry. sorry. you don't want to be part of a asystem, the criminal justice system, as a lawyer that creates injustice. the law degree gives you a remarkable ability to change things one client at a time. ♪ >> reporter: why do you think so many people are dedicated to her cause? >> nikki kind of embodies this goodness that attracts people. and when you see it and you're
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touched by it it's impossible to ignore it. ♪ let it shine ♪ >> our thanks to juju. if you are or you know someone who might be struggling, the national domestic violence hotline is always open. dial 1-800-799-7233 for free confidential assistance.p ups new film and the similarities to his real-life upbringing. people everywhere living with type 2 diabetes people everywhere living with type 2 diabetes are waking up to what's possible with rybelsus®. with rybelsus®. with rybelsus®. ♪ you are my sunshine ♪ ♪ you are my sunshine ♪ ♪ my only sunshine... ♪ rybelsus® is a pill that lowers rybelsus® is a pill that lowers rybelsus® is a pill that lowers blood sugar in three ways. increases insulin when you need it... increases insulin when you need it... increases insulin when you need it... decreases sugar... decreases sugar... decreases sugar... and slows food. the majority of people taking rybelsus® lowered their blood sugar and reached an a1c of less than 7. rybelsus® isn't for people with type 1 diabetes. don't take rybelsus® if you or your family don't take rybelsus® if you or your family don't take rybelsus® if you or your family ever had medullary thyroid cancer, or have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2, or have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2, or if allergic to it.
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ben affleck is used to making headlines both on and off the screen. now the 49-year-old is starring
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in a new film and he's not afraid to tell you what matters most. here again is "nightline" co-anchor juju chang. >> reporter: another week, another red carpet for ben affleck. the two-time oscar winner this week nominated for a golden globe for his latest film. >> i'm having a really, really good time, and i almost sort of don't want to jinx that because i know life inevitably and invariably has its ups and downs. >> reporter: and with the ups came this down. during an appearance on the howard stern show talking about his failed marriage to his ex-wife and mother of his children, jennifer garner. >> i was trapped. you know, i was like, i can't leave because of my kids but i'm not happy, what do i do. and what i did was i, you know, drank a bottle of scotch and would fall asleep on the couch, which turned out not to be the solution. >> reporter: many interpreting it as affleck blaming garner for his struggles with alcoholism. but the actor trying to set the record straight on jimmy kimmel. >> they had literally taken the conversation that i had had for
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two hours and made it seem as if i was saying the exact opposite of what i said. i'd gone on and said like how much we respect each other and cared about each other and cared about our kids and put them first and went through our stuff. i would never want my kids to think i would ever say a bad word about their mom. >> reporter: ben affleck gave us an introspective look into his life. what it means to be a good father or father figure, all themes in his latest film, "the tender bar." >> give it it to me. >> no. let j.r. open it. >> uncle charlie's a gambler. >> i paid the application fee. >> ultimately the beautiful thing is that it kind of says it it doesn't really matter what the constellation of your family system looks like, what really matters is that people are present and loving and attentive to kids. >> reporter: the 49-year-old taking on the character of an unpretentious working-class bartender and surrogate father to his nephew, j.r., an aspiring writer. >> whose kid is that? >> my sister's. >> which sister? the hot one or the crazy one?
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>> what, do you want to die? >> reporter: in the director's chair another hollywood giant, george clooney. >> give me an example of the kind of shorthand that you had on set that helped you. >> i don't want to give it aaway but there's a scene that always moved me when i read the book and the script. this uncle charlie's character is kind of obsessed with the importance of having an automobile. and at the end of the movie as the young guy is kind of of going off on his way he gives him his car. we go to shoot it and george comes over and i think he's going to be like that's terrific. and george goes, yeah. i said it was good, right? felt good. and he's like yeah, yeah. you know, it's fun to give someone a car. yes. that's it. i understand. right. of course. >> but you do a good clooney. >> you know, i've never taken that on stage. it's not part of my act.
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>> i saw you in the e.r. playing sports. you're not very good and probably not going to get a whole lot better. you'll find some other activities that you like. you know, like what do you like to do the most? >> i like to read. >> i also like to i'm good at sports to too. but -- >> reporter: affleck drew on his own experiences as a father of three. the hollywood bigwig says his 16-year-old daughter isn't afraid to critique his characters. >> but i love that she reads your scripts, that she's engaged with you on this. >> but her criticism can be withering. i showed them "armageddon," and i was like, okay, here we go. >> i love you! >> they're like oh, my god, this is absurd. you know, the whole -- you're an astronaut? >> reporter: but in "tender bar" his character is a lot more grounded. his daughter thinks he's playing himself. >> she's like oh, good, this is your fantasy, you get to play somebody who stands around and lectures children and they listen to you. yes, that is my fantasy. >> i'll get you a drink.
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that goes there. look at this guy. see he's putting his money in his pocket like that? >> yeah. >> never do that. that's keeping your money like a drunk. it's not correct. >> one of the themes of "the tender bar" is really that j.r. manages to break the cycle of addiction that clearly is rooted in his family. but on some level you've talked about how some of the hardships that you've faced you're grateful for, that it's brought you to a new place. >> i don't think there's anything all that special or particularly interesting about being a recovering alcoholic. obviously because it engenders like behavior that we really feel ashamed of when we're in that state. there's also a very rewarding, enriching process of overcoming that. but it's also like, that's part of my life. it's not the most interesting thing. >> reporter: one of those more interesting things, to fans at least, bennifer 2.0. his renewed romance 20 years later with jennifer lopez.
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>> you are living in some ways a second chance, whether it's with your sobriety or with love. >> i'm just not super comfortable characterizing myself as sort of of having been uniquely challenged or having uniquely -- like i feel like at the end of the day everybody needs a second chance. i don't care who you are. i'm quite sure that you feel at some point in your life you've made missteps, you've taken roads you didn't want to take or you've had some problems. i'm proud of the movies that i did but i'm conflicted also that i missed stuff with my kids. >> reporter: and with new work-life balance the 30-year hollywood veteran has found new meaning. >> there aren't enough movies, there isn't enough success, there isn't enough, you know, likes on instagram, that will never make you happy. a biography that means anything is written on the hearts of your kids. i'll be long dead and somebody's going to ask my kids like what was your dad like? and that's when i'll know what my life was worth.
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>> our thanks again to juju. up next, the return of the tiger. a year after he last played in a tournament. woman: i have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. now, there's skyrizi. with skyrizi, 3 out of 4 people achieved 90% clearer skin at 4 months after just two doses. skyrizi may increase your risk of infections and lower your ability to fight them. before treatment, your doctor should check you for infections and tuberculosis. tell your doctor if you have an infection or symptoms, such as fevers, sweats, chills, muscle aches, or coughs or if you plan to or recently received a vaccine. ♪ nothing is everything. ♪ woman: talk to your dermatologist about skyrizi. learn how abbvie could help you save. nyquil severe gives you powerful relief for your worst cold and flu symptoms,our dermatologist about skyrizi. on sunday night and every night. nyquil severe. the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, best sleep with a cold, medicine. what is... an overpass?
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year since tiger woods last played competitively. today in florida teeing off in front of spectators at a pro-am paired with his 12-year-old son charlie, their similar appearances drawing attention. afterward tiger calling today an awesome day. hope you all also had an awesome day. that's "nightline." you can watch all of our full episodes on hulu. we'll see you right back here same time next week. good night. people everywhere living with type 2 diabetes are waking up to what's possible with rybelsus®. ♪ you are my sunshine ♪ ♪ my only sunshine... ♪ rybelsus® is a pill that lowers blood sugar in three ways. increases insulin when you need it... decreases sugar... and slows food. the majority of people taking rybelsus® lowered their blood sugar and reached

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