About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

9 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 267 (1986)
Premenstrual Syndrome and Our Sisters in Crime: A Feminist Dilemma

handle is hein.journals/worts9 and id is 275 raw text is: Premenstrual Syndrome.& Our Sisters
in Crime: A Feminist Dilemma,
LINDA R. CHAIT*

Oh! Menstruating woman, thou'st a
fiend
From whom all nature should be
screened!
-Ancient English Poem'
For centuries, myths and stereotyped notions
about women's menstruation2 have been raised
and rationalized by theologians,3 philosophers,'
lawmakers,5 and scientists6 in an effort to define
woman and her social status in terms of her bio-
logical make-up. Criminologists, too, have histor-
ically employed various scientific theories,
firmly mired in prevailing cultural stereotypes, to
bolster their own conclusions about the nature
and causes of female criminality.7 Now, since the
news of two British cases hit the press, the issue of
women, biology and crime has resurfaced in a fu-
ror.
On November 9, 1981, Sandie Smith, a 29

year-old barmaid from East London, was placed
on probation for a period of three years after
threatening to kill a police officer with a knife.'
The defense alleged that Smith's violent behavior
was attributable to premenstrual syndrome
(PMS), a hormonal imbalance which coincided
with the premenstrual stage of her cycle9 and ren-
dered her a raging animal each month.'0 Evi-
dence was introduced at trial showing that
Smith's violent behavior had been brought under
control by injections of the hormone progester-
one. Unfortunately, her dosage had been experi-
mentally reduced by her doctor at the time of this
attempted stabbing.
The following day, 37 year-old Christine
English, was conditionally discharged by a court
in Norwich after being found guilty of man-
slaughter.2 English had been accused of killing
her lover by running him down with her car after

*The author is a 1983 graduate of Rutgers Law School,
Newark, N.J. and presently teaches civil practice at C.U.N.Y.
Law School at Queens College. She is a former law assistant to
the Hon. Margaret Cammer, a Judge of the N.Y.C. Civil Court
in Brooklyn, N.Y. She wishes to thank Nancy Stearns for
lighting the spark and Liz Schneider for fanning the flame. She
also thanks Stephanie Benson, Esq. of the Legal Aid Society,
Brooklyn, N.Y. for providing access to the transcript and
motion papers in the Santos case discussed in this Note.
1. Quoted in S. DE BEAUVOIR, THE SECOND SEX 168 (1952)
[hereinafter cited as DE BEAUVOIR].
2. See infra notes 61-67 and accompanying text.  See
generally P. WEIDEGER, MENSTRUATION AND MENOPAUSE
1976) [hereinafter cited as WEIDEGER].
3. See infra notes 67-68 and accompanying text.
4. See infra note 69 and accompanying text.
5. See infra notes 72-73.
6. See infra notes 70-95 and accompanying text.
7. See infra notes 135-42 and accompanying text.
8. See Tybor, Women on Trial: New Defense, Nat'l L.J.,
Feb. 15, 1982, at 1, col. 4 [hereinafter cited as Tybor]; N.Y.
Times, Dec. 29, 1981, at C3, col. 2.

9. See R. v. Smith [1982], 1982 CRIM. L. REv. 531 (C.A.)
(appeal dismissed); Tybor, supra note 8, at 1, col. 4. Hormone
imbalance is only one of numerous causes of PMS suggested by
researchers. See infra notes 108-18 and accompanying text.
10. See supra, note   8.  Smith  had  been  sentenced
approximately thirty times before for offenses ranging from
theft and trespass to arson and assault. At the time of this
incident, she was on probation for stabbing a barmaid to death
the year- before. Her defense asserted PMS as a mitigating
circumstance in that case as well. R. v. Craddock [1981], 1
C.L. 49, cited in Commentary, R. v. Smith [1982], 1982 CRIM.
L. REv. 531, 532 (C.A.); Tybor, supra note 8, at 1, col. 4. The
defendant in Craddock later changed her name to Smith. Id.
The trial court refused to allow the jury to consider the
automatism or irresistible impulse defenses, and the defendant
decided not to plead insanity. Smith was eventually convicted,
although her sentenced was mitigated to probation. Her appeal
was dismissed. Id.
11. See R. v. Smith [1982], 1982 CRIM. L. REV. 531.
12. See supra note 8.

[Women's Rights Law Reporter, Volume 9, Numbers 3 & 4, Fall 19861
© 1986 by Women's Rights Law Reporter, Rutgers-The State University
0085-8269/80/0908

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing nearly 3,000 academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.



Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline with pricing starting as low as $29.95

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most