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There are now 18 comments... what are your thoughts?
  1. Oddstar says

    Under modern law, isn’t there a battered-woman-syndrome defense that might apply in a situation like this?

    And even in the earlier period when this comic appears to be set, wouldn’t there have been a reasonable chance that she’d be acquitted anyway? In William Stuntz’ book The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, he pointed out that in Chicago for much of the nineteenth century, a woman could kill her husband with impunity, since it was almost unheard of for juries to convict in such cases.

    • I suspect that a battered woman syndrome defense might be a bit difficult to implement without unwanted side effects (abuse of the law). Maybe using Rose Madder rules?

  2. This example is there precisely to show when the battered-woman defense would and would not work. It would not work here, for the reasons the Sheriff says.

    Whether a jury would disregard the legalities and choose not to convict is a whole nother matter. So far as the law itself is concerned, she committed the crime.

  3. Law and domestic violence are weak and unevenly enforced. The legal options the Sharif gave only work on people who can be deterred. She should be able to have him arrested for assault, but because they are married, assault laws are rarely enforced. Laws only work when good people are enforcng them.

    • They’re unevenly enforced, all right — in favor of women. Today he wouldn’t even need to have beaten her once to be kicked out of his home with no effective recourse. “I’m afraid of him!” (which doesn’t even need to be plausible) is all it takes to get a restraining order under VAWA.

      Yes, beating up women is a serious crime. But that’s all the more reason the law needs to go back to requiring proof before imposing punishment for it. The notion that it’s “precaution” and therefore not punishment is total hogwash. I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t need to be to know right from wrong here.

      • I’ve wondered about this too. What recourse does an innocent man have when his wife claims he has beaten her? What about a case where there are children involved? It seems like any wild claim can have serious repercussions that create distress and trauma even before there is any attempt to verify it. is this just a mistaken preconception of mine?

        • It appears that in some states, a single social worker could declare (or used to be able to declare) child abuse based on bruises, but apparently without any type of medical exam. That smacks too much of presuming guilt. I can understand wanting to keep kids safe, even being proactive about it, but surely there could at least be a second opinion and a medical exam by either a physician or a psychiatrist before making accusations?

        • It is (mostly) a mistaken preconception, yes. False domestic abuse claims are really rare, and it’s much more common for valid claims to be legally disregarded than invalid ones to be legally enforced. This is true of domestic violence against men and against women.

          Remember, “innocent until proven guilty” is the cornerstone of our legal system. While there may be social repercussions that last even after being proven innocent by a jury (just ask any celebrity found innocent of a crime), there are no legal repercussions, and juries are not supposed to convict unless it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed. While there are definitely cases where it is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt and the jury convicts anyways, it’s more frequent that something probably happened, but a reasonable doubt was brought up and on the back of that reasonable doubt alone the jury goes not guilty.

  4. Beyond, Trinity A. says

    This reminds me of the Francine Hughes case dramatized in The Burning Bed. It’s disturbing that “muh feelins” can and has worked as a defense for murder.

    • It is worth noting that you can call that even if you aren’t being abused by your partner just gets angry sometimes and you’re worried. Or you hear violent arguments by your neighbors. Or you have a friend whom you’re really worried about. Or you’re a nurse who has just seen some fucked-up shit and needs to unload.

  5. Tim says

    Unfortunately, if she had waited until she was in immediate danger, she probably wouldn’t have been able to defend herself. She needed to do something while he slept – but not killing him.

  6. Anonymous says

    I hope that every lawyer, police officer, and judge who says “you could have gotten a restraining order” has cause to see how ineffectual they are firsthand. You’re better off wearing the paper as a protective vest, for all the good they do when the restrainee comes to call.

    • Yes, but once that restraining order is in place, and he violates it, that’s when she can put a few slugs in his chest and have a valid claim of self-defense.

      • Not in practice, and frankly I’m fairly sure not even in the letter of the law. Restraining orders aren’t just rarely enforced, they’re also rarely considered highly as extenuating circumstances in self-defense cases. If you kill a person you have a restraining order against for violating that restraining order, you are not much more likely to get away with it than you are if you didn’t have the restraining order and all other facts of the case remained the same.

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