Battered Woman's Defense Brings Mixed Results

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

NEW YORK 9-24-11

Experts say a woman who says she shot her abusive husband in self-defense will have a hard time convincing a jury because of a lack of understanding about battered women.

Barbara Sheehan says she shot her husband Raymond on Feb. 18, 2008, because she feared he would kill her.

She says she was abused frequently.

Susan Osthoff of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women says battered women accused of killing their partners in self-defense are convicted at about the same rate as others accused of murder.

She says many plead guilty because they are unable or unwilling to go through a difficult, public trial.

Those who do, like Sheehan, are portrayed as flawed for not leaving or seeking help, especially as methods of coping with domestic violence evolve.


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  • by Identitywithheldformyprotection on Sep 25, 2011 at 08:49 AM
    As a domestic abuse survivor (so far), I lived with the SOB for 13 years, always terrified that he would make good on his threats that he'd rather see me dead than let me leave. He also threatened to take my kids and I would never see them again. His dad was best friends with the family court judge and he went to high school with most of the Sheriff's department. Who was I supposed to go to to report him?? Finally, after thinking about killing myself and realizing that would leave my kids to deal with him on their own, I ran with them. A friend of mine let me use her name to get jobs and worked three jobs just to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. It has now been 14 years since I left and I still lock my doors when I'm home alone. I still live every day terrified he will find me. I WISH I'd had the guts to blow him away a long time ago. No one has any idea what fear a woman goes through unless you've been through it yourself and other men are making the rules to protect the abusers.
    • reply
      by Me on Sep 26, 2011 at 11:30 PM in reply to Identitywithheldformyprotection
      Perhaps not having the "guts" as you put it has kept you out of a long prison term or worse. Personally I think you are a braver & better person for rescuing your children rather than succumbing to revenge disguised as justice. I wish you the best for the future. Hopefully, the SOB will never find you & now has had time to accept what he has lost forever.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 25, 2011 at 02:06 AM
    Why is it that women want to be treated as equals until the blow their husbands away. Then they want to be treated as helpless victims. If you have the guts to shoot somebody, you have the guts to leave.
  • by Dan Location: Ga on Sep 24, 2011 at 06:34 PM
    He is the one dead. Shot and killed by his spouse, therefore I would consider him the victom of domestic violence. If he had killed her I bet he could not claim self-defense. Don't put me on the jury.
    • reply
      by off course on Sep 25, 2011 at 07:35 AM in reply to Dan
      You are sick. Hope you never have to walk a mile in our shoes.
      • reply
        by GV on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:19 AM in reply to off course
        Walk a mile in your shoes?If you are in that situation and have not left then you are a very stupid person.
        • reply
          by mom on Oct 13, 2011 at 08:42 AM in reply to GV
          Ignorant statement.
    • reply
      by m on Sep 25, 2011 at 07:44 AM in reply to Dan
      with your attitude i don't want you near me........ have you hit your wife or girlfriend lately? sounds like it............
  • by off course on Sep 24, 2011 at 05:40 PM
    Since you have not been in this situation, you do not know what you could do. It is not easy to explain our situation. Luckily, I got out alive.
    • reply
      by Anonymouns on Sep 25, 2011 at 05:36 AM in reply to off course
      I left with clothes and dogs. Most folks can leave without killing someone. Might not be the ideal situation (I had to start over completely), but it can be done.
  • by Natty Bumppo Location: Tally on Sep 24, 2011 at 05:10 PM
    Most thinking individuals pretty much understand domestic violence and how it happens, and how it is perpetuated. Of course the "experts" need to keep reminded everyone that they do not understand it, or the "experts" are out of a job.
    • reply
      by judy on Sep 25, 2011 at 07:42 AM in reply to Natty Bumppo
      have you been there or know someone who was/is? the experts do need to keep it up so it can be understood that the person being abused is not to blame their self for what is happing to themself.
  • by Me Location: Here on Sep 24, 2011 at 03:27 PM
    Self defence should be in response to real & direct threats, not in response to past wrongs or fear of future harm. To claim self defence in a situation where fleeing is a better option just seems wrong. Obviously a person subjected to years of systemic abuse deserves special consideration but it is not an automatic get out of jail card either. I just wonder what the Jurys' decision would be if Jaycee Dugard had found herself in this situation?
    • reply
      by Heather on Sep 24, 2011 at 08:56 PM in reply to Me
      Battering doesn't start and end with specific actions. It is ongoing. The psychological aspect of the abuse is intended to affect all future thoughts and actions. When someone thinks they own or have right of control over you there is no fleeing. The abuser can pop up at any time, anywhere. Even if the abuser moves on, one chance crossing of paths could bring back their animosity. People are too quick to assume that the abused have lives worth dropping. It's not just the ones who take what they see as the last resort and retaliate by following through on the threat they were constantly put under, it's anyone in an abusive "relationship" who gets told to just flee. Is it because people usually picture women? Women who obviously have gotten themselves into the situation, so they must not have anything that they have worked for, that they have to finish? They should just run off and be a waitress or housewife to some man who can protect them?
    • reply
      by judy on Sep 25, 2011 at 07:38 AM in reply to Me
      you just DON'T know what you are talking about. FLEEING IS A BETTER OPTION! sure, if you try and get cought you are DEAD MEAT. DO we know the whole here? There is always something the law holds back till it is time to come out with it. morrow,next wk,or the trail. Abuse comes in several kinds of way. I was for years abused with verbal kind. This kind is hard to prove when there aren't any witness. Ofcourse he wasn't going to have any one hear what he was saying to mom &/me. There were times I want to kill myself. I do belive if after all those years he had tried beat or kill mom I'D WOULD HAVE KILLED HIM. Untill you are there kept you opinion to yourself
    • reply
      by mari55 on Sep 25, 2011 at 09:16 PM in reply to Me
      You have no idea what a woman goes through. I ran 1500 miles away from him!! Got out of work one night and he was sitting on the steps at the job. The police said that I could not do anything unless her hurt me !!! He broke restraining order and restraining order. I have moved so many times. That is not fair. The police do not help at all until it is to late!!
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