New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement Volume: 19 Issue: 2 Dated: (Summer 1993) Pages: 329-371
The theory of battered woman syndrome, which holds that women who have been abused by their partners and have suffered and survived horrible experiences, reach a psychological state of mind, caused by the recurring abuse, in which they honestly believe their own lives are in danger. This syndrome has been applied as a defense for women who kill their abusing partners.
Women who have stood trial for these killings have often introduced expert witnesses who define the characteristics indicative of those who have been repeatedly abused as the battered woman syndrome. While nearly every State allows the introduction of evidence based on the syndrome, traditional common law doctrine of self-defense raises obstacles for the battered woman who attempts to assert a claim of self-defense. After reviewing domestic violence in the U.S. and the treatment of abused women in law and society, this article discusses the battered woman syndrome, the admissibility of expert testimony on the syndrome, and the various homicide defenses available to battered women who have killed. These defenses include not only traditional self-defense, but also imperfect self-defense as a mitigating tool, temporary insanity, and the use of the battered woman syndrome as its own defense to a reasonable homicide. 280 notes
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