CaseCast™ – "What you need to know"
Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Kelly (Defendant), stabbed to death her allegedly abusive husband. At her trial, the Defendant claimed self-defense and sought to call a psychiatric witness who would testify that she suffered from battered-woman’s syndrome.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Expert testimony on battered-woman’s syndrome is relevant to the issue of a defendant’s state of mind at the time of the murder where there is evidence of a past history of abuse.
While not condoning all aspects of the prosecutor's conduct, we conclude that, in the context of the entire trial, it did not cause defendant to be denied a fair trial.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Was expert testimony that the Defendant was suffering from battered-woman’s syndrome at the time of the stabbing relevant to her state of mind?
Held. Yes. Remanded. The testimony of the expert witness would have shown that the Defendant suffered from battered-woman’s syndrome. Evidence of this affliction was relevant to the Defendant’s case insomuch as it arose out of a history of physical abuse from her husband and both explained why she had never left her husband and why her fear that her husband was going to kill her was reasonable for someone in an abusive relationship.
Discussion. This case illustrates how the “reasonableness” test applied against justification defenses may be made to conform to the particular limitations of a psychological condition suffered by defendant at the time of the criminal act.