Defending Battered Women on Trial: Lessons from the Transcripts

Elizabeth Sheehy

February 2014
UBC Press
ISBN: 9780774826525


Elizabeth Sheehy uses trial transcripts and a detailed case study approach to tell, for the first time, the stories of eleven women, ten of whom killed their partners and one who did not. She looks at the barriers women face to "just leaving," how self-defence was argued in these cases, and which form of expert testimony was used to frame women’s experience of battering. Drawing upon a rich expanse of research from many disciplines, including law, psychology, history, sociology, women’s studies, and social work, she highlights the limitations of the law of self-defence, the successful strategies of defence lawyers, the costs to women undergoing a murder trial, and the serious difficulties of credibility that they face when testifying. In a final chapter, she proposes numerous reforms.

In Canada, a woman is killed every six days by her male partner, and about twelve women per year kill their male partners. By illuminating the cases of eleven women, this book highlights the barriers to leaving violent men and the practical and legal dilemmas that face battered women on trial for murder.

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Sheehy teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Sexual Assault Law and Defending Battered Women on Trial. She has worked on criminal law reform from many vantage points, including consultation with the department of Justice Canada, research for the Self-Defence Review, case preparation with the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, and advocacy work with women's organizations such as the National Association of Women and the Law and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. Her research and writing concentrates on violence against women, equality analysis, and criminal law reform issues such as self-defence for battered women.

Click here to visit her Faculty web page.

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