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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 119342 Find in a Library
Title: State of Michigan Versus a Battered Wife: A Case Study (From Representing...Battered Women Who Kill, P 142-155, 1989, Sara Lee Johann and Frank Osanka -- See NCJ-119339)
Author(s): A S Berkman
Date Published: 1989
Page Count: 14
Sponsoring Agency: Charles C. Thomas
Springfield, IL 62704
Sale Source: Charles C. Thomas
2600 South First Street
Springfield, IL 62704
United States of America
Type: Issue Overview
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This case study demonstrates how severe psychological and physical abuse, coupled with the sociocultural milieu of the battered wife, can drive a woman sufficiently "insane" so as to kill.
Abstract: In the 1977 Michigan case, Stephanie Howard killed her ex-husband while he slept by setting fire to the house in which they were living together. She was charged with arson and felony murder, but was acquitted by reason of insanity after a lengthy and dramatic trial. The murder reflected the interaction of psychodynamic and sociocultural forces that drove Stephanie Howard to commit homicide. Formulations of the borderline syndrome or borderline personality organization are central to understanding psychodynamic forces, while formulations concerning the battered wife syndrome are essential to understanding sociocultural forces. Borderline personality disorder is defined as instability in various areas, including interpersonal behavior, mood, and self-image. Borderline persons experience brief psychotic episodes, including disassociative states. A battered wife is defined as a woman who has suffered serious or repeated physical injury from the man with whom she lives. Since 1975, the State of Michigan has used the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code formulation for determining an individual's mental and legal responsibility for a criminal act. This formulation makes no distinction between insanity and temporary insanity, and it is the jury's role to determine culpability. In the case of Stephanie Howard, the jury determined that the defendant warranted compassion rather than condemnation, and they acquitted her by reason of insanity. 19 references.
Main Term(s): Battered woman syndrome
Index Term(s): Criminal responsibility; Insanity defense; Michigan
Note: *This document is currently unavailable from NCJRS. Earlier version of paper presented at the 31st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Atlanta, February 15, 1979
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