Why Judy Norman Acted in Reasonable Self-Defense: An Abused Woman and a Sleeping Man

27 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2007 Last revised: 12 Sep 2008

See all articles by Marina Angel

Marina Angel

Temple University - Beasley School of Law


The reasonable man has been replaced by the reasonable person, but that person still functions within legal doctrines conceived by men and interpreted to fit the facts of men's lives. To understand why it is sometimes reasonable for an abused woman to kill her abuser while he is asleep or otherwise incapacitated, basic criminal law doctrines do not have to be changed. They do, however, have to be applied to the facts of abused women's lives.

The issue of exit - why didn't she leave - must be explained. Concepts of time - immediate, imminent, and cyclical - must be reassessed. Discredited theories that label abused women who kill their abusers as suffering from insanity, a syndrome, or learned-helplessness, must be rejected. Only then can reasonableness under either the common law or the Model Penal Code be applied to the case of an abused woman who kills her sleeping abuser.

North Carolina v. Judy Ann Laws Norman provides the facts of one abused woman who killed a sleeping man. The overwhelming number of abused women who kill their abusers do so in normal confrontation cases. The abused woman who kills a sleeping or otherwise incapacitated abuser presents the most dramatic and challenging situation. Norman is the case which is included in most basic first year criminal law books. I hope this short essay will assist both teachers and students in their examination of woman abuse, and specifically Judy Norman's case.

Keywords: Criminal Law, Justification, Self-Defense, Battered Woman, Women and the Law, Legal Education

JEL Classification: K10, K14

Suggested Citation

Angel, Marina, Why Judy Norman Acted in Reasonable Self-Defense: An Abused Woman and a Sleeping Man. 16 Buffalo Women's Law Journal 65 (2008), Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-51, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1078007

Marina Angel (Contact Author)

Temple University - Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-7873 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.temple.edu

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