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This essay examines the obstacles battered women face in the form of evidentiary rules and in the definitions of certain elements of self-defense, focusing specifically on the appellate court opinion in Aris. The essay then evaluates existing and pending legislation in California which has sought to undo the narrowing effected by Aris. Finally, the essay proposes statutory language which would be more effective in ensuring that battered women who kill their batterers in non-traditional confrontational situations may fully present their claims of self-defense. Where a defendant claims self-defense and presents evidence regarding the Battered Woman Syndrome ("BWS"), my proposal would require judges to instruct juries to consider such testimony when evaluating the reasonableness of the defendant's use of self-defense. Furthermore, where the defendant alternatively argues for "imperfect" self-defense, the proposal clarifies the definition of "imminence" to be whether the defendant actually believed the danger to her life was imminent.


Originally published in 5 UCLA Women's L. J. 217 (1994), The Regents of the University of California.

Posted with permission.

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