Battered Women Syndrome
Over 10% of homicides in the U.S. are by women, and a high percentage of these cases involve the killing of an abusive romantic partner. In fact, the majority of women that are in prison for murder are victims domestic violence. Women who are abused by their partners are believed to be more sensitive to perceived danger, and so have increased fear and anxiety responses.
What Are Some Possible Defenses For The Battered Woman When Dealing With A Murder Charge?
Legally, battered woman syndrome is not a defense when used by itself. The abused woman must show that she was forced to murder the husband out of self-defense, or because of temporary insanity. The battered woman self-defense only works if it can be shown that she was forced into the act of killing out of the fear for her own life, or the lives of her children.
What is Self-Defense?
Generally, self-defense is defined as the use of force to prevent serious bodily harm or death; the person must reasonably believe they, or someone they are responsible, is in imminent danger. Anyone claiming lethal force was necessary must be able to substantiate this claim, and show that it was justifiable.
To justify self-defense, the jury must be convinced that the defendant actually believed she was in a life-threatening situation.
In People v. Torres, a precedent was set regarding self-defense as a defense in court. “The test is, rather, whether the defendant’s subjective belief as to the imminence and seriousness of the danger was reasonable.” The subjective experience of the individual is what matters; just because one person may not have reacted in the same way or feared for their life, it does not mean that the defendant’s experience is in any way less significant. In some jurisdictions, there is a distinction between honest and reasonable, or honest and unreasonable. If the jury is believes the defendant acted unreasonably in using lethal force but is convinced that she was honestly in fear for her life, rather than acquittal, it may be used as a mitigating factor to lower any criminal charge or penalties upon conviction.
Psychological self-defense as a defense is sometimes used, but rarely results in acquittal. Those taking the psychological-self defense approach murdered the abuser, but not at a time of the battering. These women, claim the murder was justifiable as a way to prevent any future threat on their life.In situations such as these, a criminal defense attorney on your side is indispensable.