List all the facts and circumstances relevant to deciding whether Peggy Stewart was in “imminent” danger.
Peggy Stewart (Defendant) was charged with murder in the first degree of her husband.
The Butler District Court, entered verdict of not guilty. The prosecution appealed with a question reserved. The Supreme Court (5-2) held that the statutory justification for the use of deadly force in self-defense did not excuse a homicide committed by a battered wife where there was no evidence of deadly threat or imminent danger contemporaneous with killing, sustained the Appeal.
Following an annulment from her first husband and two subsequent divorces in which she was the petitioner, Peggy Stewart married Mike Stewart in 1974. Evidence at trial disclosed a long history of abuse by Mike against Peggy and her two daughters from one of her prior marriages. Laura, one of Peggy’s daughters, testified that early in the marriage Mike hit and kicked Peggy, and that after the first year of the marriage Peggy exhibited signs of severe psychological problems. Subsequently, Peggy was hospitalized and diagnosed as having symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia; she responded to treatment and was soon released. It appeared to Laura, however, that Mike was encouraging Peggy to take more than her prescribed dosage of medication.
In 1977, two social workers informed Peggy that they had received reports that Mike was taking indecent liberties with her daughters. Because the social workers did not want Mike to be left alone with the girls, Peggy quit her job. In 1978, Mike began to taunt Peggy by stating that Carla, her 12-year-old daughter, was “more of a wife” to him than Peggy.
Later, Carla was placed in a detention center, and Mike forbade Peggy and Laura to visit her. When Mike finally allowed Carla to return home in the middle of summer, he forced her to sleep in an un-air conditioned room with the windows nailed shut, to wear a heavy flannel nightgown, and to cover herself with heavy blankets. Mike would then wake Carla at 5 :30 A.M. and force her to do all the housework. Peggy and Laura were not allowed to help Carla or speak to her.
When Peggy confronted Mike and demanded that the situation cease, Mike responded by holding a shotgun to Peggy’s head and threatening to kill her. Mike once kicked Peggy so violently in the chest and ribs that she required hospitalization. Finally, when Mike ordered Peggy to kill and bury Carla, she filed for divorce. Peggy’s attorney in the divorce action testified in the murder trial that Peggy was afraid for both her and her children’s lives.
One night, in a fit of anger, Mike threw Carla out of the house. Carla, who was not yet in her teens, was forced out of the home with no money, no coat, and no place to go. When the family heard that Carla was in Colorado, Mike refused to allow Peggy to contact or even talk about Carla.