What Is Battered Woman Syndrome ?
Battered woman syndrome is not a defense.
It is some evidence to be considered to support a defense, such as self-defense, duress, compulsion, and coercion.
Because women who suffer from the battered woman syndrome do not act in a typical manner as compared with women who do not suffer from it, evidence of the syndrome is used to explain their behavior.
Evidence of battered woman syndrome is presented through expert testimony to assist the jury's evaluation of the defendant's state of mind. U.S. v. Brown, 891 F. Supp. 1501, 1505 (D. Kan. 1995).
NRS 48.061 is modeled after Oklahoma's Battered Woman Statute. See Hearing on A.B. 637 Before the Assembly Comm. on Judiciary, 67th Leg. (Nev., May 27, 1993), Exhibit E; Senate Daily Journal, A.B. 637, at 27 (67th Leg. Nev., June 26, 1993).
Oklahoma's Statute located at 40.7 of Title 22 contains the following: "In an action in a court of this state, if a party offers evidence of domestic abuse, testimony of an expert witness concerning the effects of such domestic abuse on the beliefs, behavior and perception of the person being abused shall be admissible as evidence."
After Oklahoma passed the Battered Woman Syndrome Statute, an Oklahoma court examined a newly revised jury instruction and stated that the jury instruction was consistent with the new statute. See Bechtel v. State, 840 P.2d 1, 11 (Okla. Crim. App. 1992). the revised jury instruction contained the following:
A person is justified in using deadly force in self-defense if that person believed that use of deadly force was necessary to protect herself from imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.
Self-defense is a defense although the danger to life or personal security may not have been real, if a person, in the circumstances and from the viewpoint of the defendant, would reasonably have believed that she was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.
The theory behind the use of evidence regarding domestic violence and the battered woman syndrome centers upon the state of mind of the individual who has been subjected to such violence.
Self-defense is shown when a person, under the circumstances, reasonably believes she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, even if no actual threat exists.
Where the "circumstances" include domestic violence, the battered woman syndrome is relevant to the reasonableness of an individual's belief that death or great bodily harm is imminent.
Several state courts have accepted evidence of battered woman syndrome:
Seventy-six percent of the states thirty-nine have found expert testimony on battering and its effects admissible to prove the defendant is a battered woman or "suffers from battered woman syndrome."
Nearly as many, thirty-five states sixty-nine percent have found "generic" expert testimony admissible, i.e., to explain battering and its effects generally. Janet Parrish, Trend analysis: Expert testimony on battering and its effects in criminal cases, 11 Wis. Women's L.J. 75, 117-18 (1996).