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1994 U. Ill. L. Rev. 45 (1994)
Battered Woman Syndrome, Expert Testimony, and the Distinction between Justification and Excuse

handle is hein.journals/unilllr1994 and id is 55 raw text is: BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME,
EXPERT TESTIMONY, AND THE
DISTINCTION BETWEEN
JUSTIFICATION AND EXCUSE
Robert F. Schopp*
Barbara J. Sturgis**
Megan Sullivan***
Robert Schopp and his coauthors, Barbara Sturgis and Megan
Sullivan, discuss the practical effects and the viability of the bat-
tered woman syndrome as a support for self-defense. The authors
detail the conflict inherent in demonstrating the reasonableness
of the defendants' actions through the premise that she was psycho-
logically impaired. They argue that current research on battered
women does not show key characteristics posited by the theory.
The authors conclude that, use of the syndrome to support a legal
defense is misleading and may harm the credibility of women in
their claims of self-defense.
I. INTRODUCrION
A series of controversial criminal cases has addressed the exercise
of deadly force by battered women against their mates with whom
they had engaged in extended relationships involving patterns of re-
petitive physical abuse of the women by the mates. In some of these
cases the battered women exercised this force during an episode of
physical abuse by the batterers.1 In others the defendants exerted
* Associate Professor of Law and Psychology, University of Nebraska. B.S. 1969, North-
land College; Ph.D. 1977, North Carolina State University; J.D. 1988, Ph.D. 1989, University of
Arizona.
** Research Associate, Center on Children, Families and the Law. Ph.D. 1977, University
of Missouri; M.L.S. 1993, University of Nebraska.
*** Clerk for Eighth Judicial Circuit. J.D. 1993, University of Nebraska.
The authors are grateful to Martin R. Gardner for helpful comments on an earlier draft, and
to several members of the faculty at the University of Nebraska College of Law and the Univer-
sity of San Diego School of Law for helpful comments made at faculty colloquia.
1. Holly Maguigan, Battered Women and Self-Defense: Myths and Misconceptions in Cur-
rent Reform Proposals, 140 U. PA. L. REV. 379, 391-97 (1991) (analyzing a series of appellate
opinions regarding such cases). Ordinarily, the batterer is the husband, estranged husband, or
unofficial mate of the battered woman, but the broad principles discussed in this article also
apply to other relationships such as that of an abused elderly person living with a battering adult
offspring.

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