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Battered Woman's Syndrome

This is a lesson on battered woman syndrome with respect to the defense of self-defense. Over the last few decades, there has developed in the legal literature a recognition of this, and other similar syndromes, in the context of homicide cases. The situation of an abused person who kills the abuser raises questions about the basis for a defense of self-defense in circumstances that might not easily fit into the traditional self-defense mold. Though courts allow the defense in many cases, the invocation of the defense still presents problems in certain situations. The purpose of this lesson is to explore those varying circumstances and the issues raised with respect to the possibility of a defendant invoking the defense of self-defense.

The focus of this lesson is on battered women, but there are others who might be identified as qualifying for a defense on the same theory. Included could be battered husbands, elderly parents, children, and so forth. Thus, this lesson will explore a number of the issues involved in the invocation of self-defense by such persons and to allow the student to test his or her understanding of how the defense works in such circumstances. The lesson explores when and how the defense can be invoked in various scenarios involving abused persons, and also considers the use of experts and jury instructions.

The lesson assumes a beginner's understanding of self-defense principles. However, working the lesson will also serve to enhance that understanding.

Lesson Completion Time

40 minutes
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Lesson Authors

Lesson ID

CRIM19