Was it Overkill?

“The Washington Post found that nearly half of the women who were murdered during the past decade were … killed by a current or former intimate partner. In a close analysis of five cities, about a third of the male killers were known to be a potential threat ahead of the attack.”  Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/investigations/domestic-violence-murders/  Retrieved 12/19/19.

It is understandable that women in physically abusive relationships are petrified of being murdered by their partners.  It can so easily happen, and it does! Some women fight back when being physically assaulted. Or at least attempt to. Sometimes a physical fight in which a woman fears for her life, will end with her killing her physically abusive partner.  “In U.S. law, killing in self-defense is not a crime; however for most women, neither the laws of self-defense nor evidence of battering work for women in actual trials. 75-80% of women who killed in self-defense are convicted or convinced to plead guilty, and are sentenced to long terms.”  Source: https://solidarity-us.org/atc/130/p729/  Retrieved 12/19/19.

When it comes to cases where a woman killed her current or former intimate partner in self-defense, for self-defense to be accepted by law, there are, what seem to be, massive hurdles that the defendant must surpass in order to escape being convicted of murder.  For example: There must be enough significant proof that there had been a history of physically violent behavior towards the defendant, committed by the deceased partner. “The majority of U.S. jurisdictions require that defendants use force only when there is a threat of “imminent” harm.”  Source: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935352.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199935352-e-5  Retrieved 12/19/19.  But would a victim of domestic violence take the risk of not taking preemptive action?  When her life was at stake! Also, part of this assessment can include the exploration of whether there was a way to retreat safely from the situation, instead of attacking/defending, that was not taken.  I would argue, perhaps controversially, that if a woman found herself about to be murdered by her partner or former partner, if she were to retreat, that threat of being murdered by him would follow her. She would remain in the category of “High Risk” for being murdered by him on another occasion.  

Additionally, “Virtually all formulations of self-defense require that the force used against an attacker be “necessary” for protection, or that the defendant reasonably believe it is.”  Source: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935352.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199935352-e-5  Retrieved: 12/19/19.  Is it fair to convict a woman who killed her intimate partner or former intimate partner, of murder on the grounds of excessive force?  For example: Sixteen stabs to his body, resulting in his death, in comparison to one fatal stab. The point I’m making: She had not trained in the “art” of stabbing techniques, to include knowledge of how many stabs are needed in order to render an attacker unable to strike back.  And in the moments of utter panic and fear for her life, she would likely not be thinking about the amount of stabs, but purely that she was protecting herself from being murdered.

Furthermore, “When victims of battering use self-defense, there are often stereotypes and misconceptions at play … a jury might disbelieve a defendant’s claim that she was in fear of her abuser because she chose to be in a relationship with him”  Source: https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/crime/domestic-abuse-self-defense-philly-freebresha-letoya-ramseure-larry-krasner-20180829.html  Retrieved 12/19/19.  And such a lack of accurate understanding about Domestic Violence and the dynamics involved, on the part of both jurors and judges, can result in a woman having successfully fought for her life, only to lose her freedom to a term behind bars.

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