JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE: Battered Women, Self-Defense, and the Law by Cynthia K. Gillespie

JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE: Battered Women, Self-Defense, and the Law

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Attorney Gillespie's thesis--that women who kill physically abusive spouses or lovers are frequently convicted in miscarriages of justice under self-defense law as currently applied--is backed up here with well-argued analysis and fact. Gillespie's work should help dispel the prejudicial idea that women, by claiming they've been battered, have been getting away with murder. In fact, she claims self-defense law is inequitable to women. In a legal and historical overview of the concept (valuable to the nonlawyer), Gillespie shows how self-defense law developed over the centuries to cover situations in which men were likely to be attacked. The law has few rational standards to apply in the context in which most women kill--attacks by an intimate (or former intimate) in their own homes. Women are convicted because they cannot prove the ""seriousness"" of the attack (fists don't count even when a man has previously inflicted serious injuries with his bare hands) or its ""imminence"" (past experience that the man carries out his violent threats is not enough). Many states apply a ""retreat"" requirement--that women (but not men) must flee their own homes rather than fight back. A cogent, readable argument with shocking examples suggesting that women's lives are threatened not only sometimes by their men but by the courts as well.

Pub Date: April 11th, 1989
Publisher: Ohio State Univ. Press