This comment uses the plight of Brenda Denise Aris to illustrate the criminal defenses available to a battered woman who kills her aggressor. Since the 1989 decision in Aris, California Governor Pete Wilson granted executive clemency to Aris. Governor Wilson reduced Aris' fifteen years to life sentence to twelve years to life. Another significant event since the decision in Aris is the passage of California Assembly Bill 785 in 1991. The Bill added Section 1107 to the California Evidence Code, which permits expert testimony regarding battered woman syndrome. The testimony may include expert opinion concerning the physical, emotional, or mental effects of the battering upon the beliefs, perceptions, or behavior of domestic violence victims. The proponent of the evidence must only establish its relevancy and the proper qualifications of the expert witness. Despite these changes, the Aris decision provides an effective vehicle to demonstrate the obstacles confronting a battered woman when she enters the justice system.
Deborrah Ann Klis,
Reforms to Criminal Defense Instructions: New Patterned Jury Instructions Which Account for the Experience of the Battered Woman Who Kills Her Battering Mate, 24 Golden Gate U. L. Rev.