Mercer Law Review
The criminal justice system must deal fairly, through the use of expert testimony, with the battered woman who strikes back at her abuser with deadly results. Society-at-large does not understand the battered woman, the batterer, and their relationship; historically, the criminal justice system’s response to the predicament of the battered woman has been ineffective.
The use of expert testimony in homicide cases where an allegedly battered wife kills her abuser and then claims self-defense is a controversial proposition. The evidence, however, shows that women are frequently the victims of abuse, that patterns of behavior associated with battering relationships usually exist, and that modern American society has been unable to understand or cope with the problem. This failure to deal with the issue of battering extends to the criminal justice system as a whole--police, prosecutors, judges, and juries. Traditional notions of self-defense and traditional rules regarding admissibility of expert testimony do not transfer well to the battered woman's situation. The law must take a realistic view of the physical and social differences between men and women when evaluating a battered woman's claim of self-defense. Courts must admit expert testimony to explain the battered woman syndrome to the jurors.
Victoria Mather, The Skeleton In The Closet: The Battered Woman Syndrome, Self Defense, And Expert Testimony, 39 Mercer L. Rev. 545 (1988).