CaseCast™ – "What you need to know"
Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Judy Ann Laws Norman (Defendant), shot and killed John Thomas Norman (Mr. Norman) while he slept after Mr. Norman had beaten the Defendant on the day in question. Mr. Norman also had a history of beating the defendant.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The right to kill in self-defense requires that the defendant be faced with imminent death or great bodily harm.
Issue. Does the victim’s passiveness at the time of the killing preclude the Defendant from asserting self-defense?
Held. Yes. “The right to kill in self-defense is based on the necessity, real or reasonably apparent, of killing an unlawful aggressor to save oneself from imminent death or great bodily injury at his hands.” Imminent danger is defined as that which one cannot be protected from by the calling for help or the protection of the law. In the present case, the evidence failed to show that the defendant was confronted with imminent death or great bodily harm when the she shot her husband. Rather, the victim was asleep at the time, and the evidence tended to show that the defendant had ample time and opportunity to utilize other methods to avoid the abuse of her husband. The court does not favor permitting this type of “homicidal self-help.”
Dissent. The evidence was sufficient to require the trial court to instruct on the law of self-defense.
Discussion. A killing by a woman suffering from “battered wife syndrome” cannot be done in self-defense unless death or serious bodily harm is imminent.