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Does Plight Make Right: The Battered Woman Syndrome, Expert Testimony and the Law of Self-Defense

NCJ Number
Indiana Law Journal Volume: 62 Issue: 4 Dated: (1986-87) Pages: 1253-1282
M Mihajlovich
Date Published
30 pages
This paper argues that expert testimony on the battered woman syndrome should not be used in the trials of battered women who kill their abusers and claim self-defense.
After tracing the evolution of the battered woman syndrome, the article discusses evidentiary issues in admitting expert testimony. It notes that jurisdictions are split regarding the admissibility of expert testimony on the battered woman syndrome and argues that such testimony should be excluded in self-defense cases. According to the author, it fosters inappropriate pleading and careless legal work by defense attorneys, invites the use of violence to end violence within the family, and reinforces a societal view of women as victims. Expert testimony also encourages juries to decide difficult cases based on sympathy rather than legal requirements. The article maintains that self-defense claims, as currently defined in statutes and interpreted by case law, are adequate to protect the battered woman who defends herself during a violent attack. Finally, manslaughter is appropriate in cases in which the woman attacks her batterer while he is incapacitated or unaware. 163 footnotes.