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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 120318 Find in a Library
Title: Justifiable Homicide: Battered Women, Self-Defense, and the Law
Author(s): C K Gillespie
Date Published: 1989
Page Count: 252
Sponsoring Agency: Ohio State University Press
Columbus, OH 43210
Publication Number: ISBN 0-8142-0466-X
Sale Source: Ohio State University Press
Hitchcock Hall, Room 316
2070 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States of America
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This book explores the historical, legal, and societal reasons why women are rarely granted the right to act in self-defense, relying primarily on facts from the appellate cases of over 200 women charged with murder.
Abstract: Almost all the cases studied involved women who killed men to whom they were married or with whom they lived in an intimate relationship. The men they killed had beaten and abused them in the past and were assaulting or threatening to assault them again. In some cases the women, after years of brutality and despairing of stopping the beatings or escaping their mates, killed their mates when they were off-guard. The outcome of all the cases was similar. The woman was arrested immediately and charged with murder. She subsequently pleaded guilty to murder or manslaughter, hoping that case circumstances would move the judge to leniency; or she went to trial, was duly convicted, and sent to prison. In either case, she was judged guilty of a serious crime. This plight of abused women who kill their abusing mates stems from a combination of two factors. First, the law of self-defense or justifiable homicide reflects masculine assumptions about the circumstances that entitle a person to act in self-defense. The second factor is society's ambivalent and biased attitudes about women and its acceptance of violence against them. This book recommends reform in the following areas of self-defense law: the easing or abandonment of the requirements of equal force, imminent danger, retreat, and reasonableness; the use of expert testimony on the mental states of battered women; and the right to use deadly force in defense against rape. Table of cases, 193 notes, 240 references, subject index.
Main Term(s): Homicide; Self defense
Index Term(s): Battered wives; Sex discrimination
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