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Battered Women Who Kill: An Empirical Analysis of Public Perceptions of Seriousness in Israel From a Consensus Theoretical Perspective

NCJ Number
Homicide Studies Volume: 10 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2006 Pages: 293-319
Sergio Herzog
Date Published
November 2006
27 pages
Israel recently modified its criminal code to recognize motive as a mitigating factor in murder that followed the perpetrator's suffering prolonged domestic abuse by the murder victim; this article presents and discusses the results of a national sample survey of Israelis that assessed the extent to which this modification of law reflects public attitudes toward such cases.
According to survey findings, the Israeli public supports this change in the law. Survey findings show that under the special circumstance of murder of an abuser by the victim of domestic abuse, the Israeli public does take motive--the murderer's prolonged suffering because of domestic abuse--into account in assessing the seriousness of this particular type of murder. Generally, however, the survey findings show that regardless of social influences, the Israeli public perceives most murders, regardless of motive, as very serious and categorizes the seriousness of different kinds of murder as a function of the offender's criminal intent rather than as a function of the murder motive. The Israeli public does not support the feminist argument that the killing of an abuser by his/her victim should be considered justifiable homicide based on "extended self-defense principles" and therefore not liable for prosecution under Israeli law. Survey data were collected from a random sample (n=892) of the adult Israeli population in 2003. The sample distribution showed a close fit with recent official national data on the Israeli population's demographic and social variables. Using a telephone survey, respondents were questioned on their perceptions of the seriousness of various hypothetical homicide and murder cases committed for different motives, including murders of abusers by victims of prolonged domestic violence. Respondents judged each scenario according to its perceived seriousness and the most appropriate sentence. 3 tables, 10 notes, 62 references, and appended variables and values in the factorial approach