Spousal Abuse

An officer responds to a 911 dispatcher’s call that a man has been bludgeoned to death with a shovel. When the officer arrives on the scene, the officer finds a woman on the ground, holding her husband’s lifeless body in her arms 100 yards from their home. After speaking to a neighbor who witnessed the events leading up to the man’s death, the officer learns that the couple had been married for three years and, almost from the beginning, had a very tumultuous relationship. The police had been called to the house twice before, both times for domestic disturbances. On this particular day, the couple had fought for approximately an hour—both screaming at the top of their lungs. The man apparently chased his wife out of their home and down the street. He then turned around and began walking home, as though nothing had happened. The wife picked up a shovel lying on another neighbor’s front lawn, charged at her husband from behind, and hit him over the head. He immediately dropped to the ground, and although his wife tried to resuscitate him, he had obviously died the moment he was hit with the shovel. At the wife’s trial, could the battered woman syndrome be successfully used as a defense? Why or why not? Based on what you have read in this and the previous chapter, could another defense be used successfully?

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