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Criminal Law TheoryDoctrines of the General Part$
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Stephen Shute and Andrew Simester

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199243495

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243495.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 September 2021

Battered Women Who Kill Their Sleeping Tormenters: Reflections on Maintaining Respect for Human Life while Killing Moral Monsters

Battered Women Who Kill Their Sleeping Tormenters: Reflections on Maintaining Respect for Human Life while Killing Moral Monsters

Chapter:
(p.259) 11 Battered Women Who Kill Their Sleeping Tormenters: Reflections on Maintaining Respect for Human Life while Killing Moral Monsters
Source:
Criminal Law Theory
Author(s):

JOSHUA DRESSLER

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243495.003.0011

Women are often killed by persons whom they know, in particular by husbands or other males with whom they are sexually intimate. In fewer numbers, but perhaps with increasing frequency, battered women kill their tormentors, usually during a physical confrontation, but occasionally while the latter is asleep or in some other passive condition. This chapter considers situations when the victim of ongoing physical abuse kills her abuser in non-confrontational circumstances and reflects on how the criminal law should deal with cases of homicide. At least a few American jurisdictions — apparently resulting in a ‘surprising number of acquittals’ — now permit a defendant to introduce expert testimony that she is a battered woman suffering from ‘battered woman syndrome’ (BWS), and to assert the claim of self-defence notwithstanding the passive condition of the decedent. This chapter discusses the role of BWS evidence in self-defence cases, the moral theory of forfeiture and justification, and BWS as an excuse defence.

Keywords:   battered women, self-defence, battered woman syndrome, criminal law, homicide, physical abuse, moral theory, forfeiture, justification, excuse defence

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