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9 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 227 (1986)
Potential Uses for Expert Testimony: Ideas toward the Representation of Battered Women Who Kill

handle is hein.journals/worts9 and id is 235 raw text is: Potential Uses for Expert Testimony:
Ideas Toward the Representation of
Battered Women Who Kill

If it is true that the psychological conse-
quences of wife abuse are beyond the ken of the
average lay [person],' then expert testimony
ought to be standard at trials of battered women
who kill their abusers. Testimony on the bat-
tered woman syndrome is being admitted during
trial proceedings with increasing frequency and,
since 1979, its use has been approved by state
courts in the District of Columbia,2 Maine,3
Georgia,4 Florida,5 Illinois,6 New Jersey,7 and
Washington,' Kansas,9 and New York.1° (How-
ever, state supreme courts in Idaho, Ohio,'2 and

* I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of
Psychology, Barnard College, Columbia University. I received
my Ph.D. in Social Psychology in 1978, from Teachers College,
Columbia   University.  My  research  pertains  to  the
psychological consequences of family violence and I testify
frequently as an expert witness in cases involving battered
women and abused children who kill their abusers.
I would like to thank Mitchell Dinnerstein, Betty
Levinson, Elizabeth Schneider and Rachel Shenkman for their
comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper.
I wrote this article because I wanted to reach attorneys
who might represent battered women who kill and to offer them
my perspective as a psychologist on the legal options available.
My long range professional goals have to do mostly with
writing; I have a lot of data on family violence that I have yet to
publish. I seem to do more data gathering than writing and I
aspire to do a better job of sharing what I know. My greatest
pleasures these days come from living with my husband and our
seven month old son. The baby's serenity and his simple
pleasure warm my days. I do not take the safety or the
gentleness of my life for granted. I wish for an end to the
violence about which I am an expert. I could find something
else to do.
1. Dyas v. United States, 376 A.2d 827, 832 (D.C. 1977),
cert. denied, 434 U.S. 973 (1977), quoting MCCORMICK'S
1972) (setting forth legal criteria for the admissibility of expert

Wyoming13 have excluded proffered expert testi-
Overall, the national trend has favored the
admission of expert testimony. Further, those at-
torneys who were involved in or informed of the
activities of the Women's Self Defense Law Pro-
ject,4 in the late 1970's may, by now, consider the
use of an expert a requisite part of the plan for
trial.5 It seems likely that, at least for some, it is
a familiar idea to consider using expert testimony
on the battered woman syndrome at trial. How-

2. Ibn-Tamas v. United States, 407 A.2d 626 (D.C. 1979).
3. State v. Anaya, 438 A.2d 892 (Me. 1981).
4. Smith v. State, 247 Ga. 612, 277 S.E.2d 678 (1981).
5. Hawthorne v. State, 408 So.2d 801 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App.
6. People v. Minnis, 118 Ill. App. 3d 345, 455 N.E.2d 209
7. State v. Kelly, 97 N.J. 178, 478 A.2d 364 (1984).
8. State v. Allery, 101 Wash. 2d 591, 682 P.2d 312 (1984).
9. State v. Hodges, 239 Kan. 63, 716 P.2d 563 (1986).
10. People v. Torres, 128 Misc. 2d 129, 488 N.Y.S.2d 358
(Sup. Ct. 1985).
11. State v. Griffiths, 101 Idaho, 163, 610 P.2d 522 (1980).
12. State v. Thomas, 66 Ohio St. 2d 518, 423 N.E.2d 137
13. Buhrle v. State, 627 P.2d 1374 (Wyo. 1981).
14. For a description of the Women's Self-Defense Law
Project, see Schneider, Describing and Changing: Women's
Self-Defense Work and the Problem of Expert Testimony on
Battering, [in this issue at 195].
15. See Schneider & Jordan, Representation of Women ho
Defend Themselves in Response to Physical and Sexual Assault,
4 WOMEN'S RTS. L. REP. 149 (1978) for the first discussion of
this application of expert testimony. For a more recent review
of ideas concerning the use of experts, see WOMEN'S SELF-

[Women's Rights Law Reporter, Volume 9, Numbers 3 & 4. Fall 1986]
© 1986 by Women's Rights Law Reporter, Rutgers-The State University

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