Essay on battered spouse syndrome

Submitted By kjdeol
Words: 1295
Pages: 6

The battered spouse syndrome has caused many controversies in the court system. The battered spouse syndrome was introduced in the 1980s and was used to explain a woman’s actions, and was used in defense by lawyers when a woman killed her husband or boyfriend due to the fact of being abused over several years. But now that syndrome also applies to men, gays and lesbians as well. In order to use this defense the evidence has to be admissible. For many trials the battered spouse syndrome was used, but the expert testimony was being viewed as excuse. But with evidence and changes in the law the battered spouse syndrome is a justification. Many women who have been in an abusive relationship use this syndrome as a way to avoid criminal responsibility.
In the court case R. v. Lavallee, the appellant is on trial for the killing of her husband. At the time the appellant was twenty two and was living with Kevin Rust in a common law relationship for three to four years. On August 30, 1983, there was a part being hosted at the residence of Kevin Rust and the appellant. The appellant was talking to a guest and Kevin pushed her making her run into the house and hiding in the closet from him. Kevin entered the appellant’s room and told her to come out, but due to the fact she was scared she did not. Kevin grabbed her right arm and yelled at her and both began to push each other and then Kevin hit her on the right side of the head. The appellant was scared and was shaking and then was given a gun by Kevin, and a shot was fired through her screen. Then again Kevin loaded the second shot and gave it to the appellant. The appellant said that she was going to shoot herself and pointed the gun towards herself. The appellant sat on her bed while Kevin made hand motions for pulling the trigger and told her that she is his old lady and she should do what she is told. Kevin tells her when everybody leaves, she is going to get it and that either she wills him or he will get her, and that was where the appellant shot Kevin.
The relationship between the two was a violent one full of arguments. Both would argue many times throughout the day. There was evidence of the appellant being abused by Kevin Rust. Between 1983 and 1986, the appellant suffered many injuries which included bruising, fractured nose, multiple contusions and a black eye. The appellant would lie about the injuries and the physicians would not believe her explanations. Many witnesses testify that they always heard the argument and did see that the appellant had sustained some type of injuries. The appellant told the police officer that if she did not kill him first that he would kill her, but she hoped that he would live because she loved him.
The expert evidence came from Dr. Fred Shane who is a psychiatrist with expensive professional experience in treatment of battered wives. In Dr. Shane’s opinion the appellant was being abused by Kevin to a point where her life was in danger and she felt trapped. Dr. Shane states in his opinion the appellant shot Kevin because it was the only option of her not being killed. The expert opinion came from the interview from the appellant, the police report, hospital reports and the interview with the appellant’s mother. Much of his testimony was lacking admissible evidence which could not be taken into consideration. In the end of the trial the appellant was acquitted by the jury but the verdict was overturned by a majority of Manitoba Court of Appeal and case sent back for retrial.
The psycholegal assumption made in the court was on how the expert testimony is weighed in the trial and whether a woman who was under stress from an abusive relationship be able to use the battered spouse syndrome. The court took the evidence of Dr. Shane to be not admissible and the judge made it clear to the jury that some evidence should not be taken into consideration when it came to their verdict. In the courts they doubted the facts that Dr, Shane was bring up