skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 162873 Find in a Library
Title: Hazards of Using the Battered Child Syndrome as Evidence of Self-Defense When Children Kill in Non-Confrontational Situations
Journal: Journal of Juvenile Law  Volume:16  Dated:(1995)  Pages:91-114
Author(s): L Z Houfek
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 24
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article argues that it is time for the legal system to put limits on childhood abuse as an excuse for murder and to confront the issues of responsibility in a calibrated manner that is comprehensible to jurors.
Abstract: Some legal experts consider that the Abuse Excuse, the legal tactic by which criminal defendants claim a history of abuse as an excuse for violent retaliation, is becoming a license to kill. It is popular in juvenile law and is used as a defense by both the abused juvenile and the abusive parent or guardian in incidents of violent retaliation or psychological turmoil. Analysis of the traditional self-defense doctrine and its applicability to the battered child syndrome reveals the transformation of self-defense from an objective to a subjective standard; the distinction between justification and excuse is becoming blurred. The use of such excuses is endangering the collective safety by legitimizing vigilantism. It reflects the people's frustration over the apparent inability of law enforcement and the American legal system to reduce the prevailing violence that is beginning to overwhelm the country. The abuse excuse is a symptom of a general abdication of responsibility. Footnotes, tables
Main Term(s): Juveniles
Index Term(s): Abused children; Child abuse as delinquency factor; Courts; Defense; Extreme emotional disturbance defense; Jury decisionmaking; Jury nullification instructions; Justifiable homicide; Juvenile murderers; Legal doctrines; Trial procedures; Victims of Crime
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.