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38 Howard L.J. 297 (1994-1995)
Battered Woman Syndrome: Selling the Shadow to Support the Substance

handle is hein.journals/howlj38 and id is 305 raw text is: Battered Woman Syndrome: Selling the
Shadow to Support the Substance*
According to Thelma Jean Banks's testimony, on the day of the
murder of her live-in partner James McDonald (nicknamed Brother),
Jean and Brother, both alcoholics, spent the day drinking and argu-
ing.1 During an argument, Brother struck Jean, pushed her to the
* Sojourner Truth, though denied her status as mother and woman, refused to relinquish
her dignity to accept the label of victim. And although a slave, she exhibited strength and
power, commanding respect when speaking out against slavery and in favor of women's rights.
As evidence of her strength and self-determination, Truth sold copies of her portrait to support
herself and her work. Under her photograph she printed, I sell the shadow to support the
substance. By this statement she meant she sold her photograph, her shadow, to support
herself and her work, her substance.
As applied in this article, selling the shadow to support the substance means that, like
Sojourner Truth, women, particularly African American women, must be willing to sell or
relinquish the superficial gains made through use of syndrome testimony, which is, at most,
merely the shadow of equality because of its theme of victimization. Instead, women must
support the fight for equal treatment of women in the criminal justice system through equal
application of the law so that when women assert that they have killed their partners in self-
defense while suffering abuse at the hands of their spouse, they can be heard and believed. This
WOMAN 96 (1976).
** Associate Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law, LL.M. 1992, Harvard Law
School; J.D. 1984, University of Baltimore; B.A. 1981, Towson State University. Assistant Pros-
ecutor, Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office, Aug. 1986 - Aug. 1991.
I thank Harvard Law Professors James Vorenberg and Charles Ogletree for their encour-
agement in my efforts to write this article. I also thank Derrick Bell not only for his support of
my writing, but also for his support of me as a new law professor. I am grateful for the guidance
of Elizabeth Schneider as I developed the idea for this Article in early 1992 and her subsequent
critical reading and suggestions in 1993. I am especially thankful to the faculty members at
South Texas College of Law for their words of encouragement when it appeared I had grown
weary in my effort. Particularly, I thank Professors Helen Jenkins, Bruce Burton, Susan Crump,
Teresa Collett, Kimberly Cauthorn, Sandra DeGraw, and Ann Puckett for their suggestions and
support. Finally, I thank student assistants Ursula Hall, Sharon Cammack, and William May-
nard who worked tirelessly in this effort. I especially thank Ursula Hall, who engaged me in
dialogue on intellectually difficult issues, the result of which assisted me in reworking the article.
1. Banks v. State, 608 A.2d 1249, 1252 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1992). Brother and Jean began
drinking before 7:00 A.M. on the morning before the murder. They had also been drinking the
1995 Vol. 38 No. 2

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