Defending Battered Women on Trial
Elizabeth A Sheehy, Defending Battered Women on Trial: Lessons from the Transcripts (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2014), pp 1-18.
31 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 26, 2015
In the landmark Lavallee decision of 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that evidence of "battered woman syndrome" was admissible in establishing self-defence for women accused of killing their abusive partners. This book looks at the legal response to battered women who killed their partners in the fifteen years since Lavallee.
Elizabeth Sheehy uses trial transcripts and a detailed case study approach to tell, for the first time, the stories of eleven women, ten of whom killed their partners and one who did not. She looks at the barriers women face to "just leaving," how self-defence was argued in these cases, and which form of expert testimony was used to frame women's experience of battering. Drawing upon a rich expanse of research from many disciplines, including law, psychology, history, sociology, women's studies, and social work, she highlights the limitations of the law of self-defence, the successful strategies of defence lawyers, the costs to women undergoing a murder trial, and the serious difficulties of credibility that they face when testifying. In a final chapter, she proposes numerous reforms.
In Canada, a woman is killed every six days by her male partner, and about twelve women per year kill their male partners. By illuminating the cases of eleven women, this book highlights the barriers to leaving violent men and the practical and legal dilemmas that face battered women on trial for murder.
Keywords: criminal law, violence against women, self-defence
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