Summarize the dissent’s arguments for imminent danger.
Where self-defense is asserted, evidence of the deceased’s long-term cruelty and violence towards the defendant is admissible. In cases involving battered spouses, expert evidence of the battered woman syndrome is relevant to a determination of the reasonableness of the defendant’s perception of danger. In order to instruct a jury on self-defense, there must be some showing of an imminent threat or a confrontational circumstance involving an overt act by an aggressor. There is no exception to this requirement where the defendant has suffered long-term domestic abuse and the victim is the abuser. In such cases, the issue is not whether the defendant believes homicide is the solution to past or future problems with the batterer, but rather whether circumstances surrounding the killing were sufficient to create a reasonable belief in the defendant that the use of deadly force was necessary. In three recent Kansas cases where battered women shot their husbands, the women were clearly threatened in the moments prior to the shootings. [Summary of these cases omitted here.] Each case involved a threat of death to the wife and a violent confrontation between husband and wife, contemporaneous with the shooting.
Here, however, there is an absence of imminent danger to defendant: Peggy told a nurse at the Oklahoma hospital of her desire to kill Mike. She later voluntarily agreed to return home with Mike when he telephoned her. She stated that after leaving the hospital Mike threatened to kill her if she left him again. Peggy showed no inclination to leave. In fact, immediately after the shooting, Peggy told the police that she was upset because she thought Mike would leave her. Prior to the shooting, Peggy hid the loaded gun. The cars were in the driveway and Peggy had access to the car keys. After being abused, Peggy went to bed with Mike at 8 P.M. Peggy lay there for two hours, then retrieved the gun from where she had hidden it and shot Mike while he slept.
Under these facts, the giving of the self-defense instruction was erroneous. Under such circumstances, a battered woman cannot reasonably fear imminent life-threatening danger from her sleeping spouse.
Finally, our legislature has not provided for capital punishment for even the most heinous crimes. We must, therefore, hold that when a battered woman kills her sleeping spouse when there is no imminent danger, the killing is not reasonably necessary and a self-defense instruction may not be given. To hold otherwise in this case would in effect allow the execution of the abuser for past or future acts and conduct.
One additional issue must be addressed. In its amicus curiae brief, the Kansas County and District Attorney Association contends the instruction given by the trial court improperly modified the law of selfdefense to be more generous to one suffering from the battered woman syndrome than to any other defendant relying on self-defense. We agree …. Here, the trial judge gave the instruction, stating: The defendant has claimed her conduct was justified as self-defense. A person is justified in the use of force against an aggressor when and to the extent it appears to him and he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such aggressor’s imminent use of unlawful force. Such justification requires both a belief on the part of the defendant and the existence of facts that would persuade a reasonable person to that belief. The trial judge then added the following: You must determine, from the viewpoint of the defendant’s mental state, whether the defendant’s belief in the need to defend herself was reasonable in light of her subjective impressions and the facts and circumstances known to her.
This addition was apparently encouraged by the following language in State v. Hodges, 239 Kan. 63, Syl. l)[ 4, 716 P.2d 563: Where the battered woman syndrome is an issue in the case, the standard for reasonableness concerning an accused’s belief in asserting self-defense is not an objective, but a subjective standard. The jury must determine, from the viewpoint of defendant’s mental state, whether defendant’s belief in the need to defend herself was reasonable.
The statement that the reasonableness of defendant’s belief in asserting self-defense should be measured from the defendant’s own individual subjective viewpoint conflicts with prior law. Our test for selfdefense is a two-pronged one. We first use a subjective standard to determine whether the defendant sincerely and honestly believed it necessary to kill in order to defend. We then use an objective standard to determine whether defendant’s belief was reasonable-specifically, whether a reasonable person in defendant’s circumstances would have perceived self-defense as necessary …. [I]n cases involving battered spouses, “the objective test is how a reasonably prudent battered wife would perceive the aggressor’s demeanor.” … [I]t was error for the trial court to instruct the jury to employ solely a subjective test in determining the reasonableness of defendant’s actions. The appeal is sustained.
… It is not within the scope of appellate review to weigh the evidence. An appellate court’s function is to merely examine the record and determine if there is any evidence to support the theory of self-defense. If the record discloses any competent evidence upon which self-defense could be based, then the instruction must be given. In judging the evidence for this purpose, all inferences should be resolved in favor of the defendant.
It is evident from prior case law … [ omitted] Peggy met her burden of showing some competent evidence that she acted in self-defense, thus making her defense a jury question. She testified she acted in fear for her life, and Dr. Hutchinson corroborated this testimony. The evidence of Mike’s past abuse, the escalation of violence, his threat of killing her should she attempt to leave him, and Dr. Hutchinson’s testimony that Peggy was indeed in a “lethal situation” more than met the minimal standard of “any evidence” to allow an instruction to be given to the jury.
Peggy introduced much uncontroverted evidence of the violent nature of the deceased and how he had brutalized her throughout their married life. It is well settled in Kansas that when self-defense is asserted, evidence of the cruel and violent nature of the deceased toward the defendant is admissible. The evidence showed Mike had a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” personality. He was usually very friendly and ingratiating when non-family persons were around, but was belligerent and domineering to family members. He had a violent temper and would blow up without reason.
Mike was cruel to his two stepdaughters, Carla and Laura, as well as to the Peggy. He took pride in hurting them or anything they held dear, such as their pets. Mike’s violence toward Peggy and her daughters caused Peggy to have emotional problems with symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. He would overdose Peggy on her medication and then cut her off it altogether. Mike’s cruelty would culminate in an outburst of violence, and then he would suddenly become very loving and considerate. This was very confusing to Peggy. She lived in constant dread of the next outburst.
Peggy became progressively more passive and helpless during the marriage but finally became desperate enough to confront Mike and tell him the cruelty to her daughters had to stop. Mike responded by holding a shotgun to her head and threatening to kill her in front of the girls. The violence escalated. At one point, Mike kicked Peggy so violently in the chest and ribs that she required hospitalization.
Mike threw twelve-year-old Carla out of the house without resources, and Laura left home as soon as she could. Mike would not let Peggy see her daughters and ran Laura off with a shotgun when she tried to visit. Peggy’s life became even more isolated. Towards the end, both the phone and utilities were disconnected from the house.
Peggy finally took the car and ran away to Laura’s home in Oklahoma. It was the first time she had ever left Mike without telling him. She was suicidal and again hearing voices, and Laura had her admitted to a hospital. She was diagnosed as having toxic psychosis from a bad reaction to her medication. She soon felt better, but was not fully recovered, when Mike found out where she was and called her to say he was coming to get her. She told a nurse she felt like she wanted to shoot him, but the nurse noted her major emotion was one of hopelessness.
The hospital nevertheless released Peggy to Mike’s care, and he immediately drove her back to Kansas, telling her on the way she was going to have to “settle down now” and listen to him because he was the boss. He said if she ever ran away again, he would kill her.
When they reached the house, Mike would not let Peggy bring in her suitcases and forced her to have oral sex four or five times in the next 36 hours, with such violence that the inside of her mouth was bruised. The next morning, Peggy found a box of bullets in the car that had not been there before. She then discovered a loaded .357 magnum. This frightened her, because Mike had promised to keep his guns unloaded. She did not know how to unload the gun, so she hid it under the mattress of the bed in a spare room. As she cleaned house, Mike remarked she should not bother, because she would not be there long. He told her she should not bother with her things, because she could not take them with her. She took these statements to mean she would soon be dead and she grew progressively more terrified. Throughout the day Mike continued to force her to have oral sex, while telling her how he preferred sex with other women.
The sexual abuse stopped when Mike’s parents came to visit. Mike’s father testified everything seemed normal during their stay. After the visit, Mike again forced Peggy to perform oral sex and then demanded at 8:00 P.M. she come to bed with him. The cumulative effect of Mike’s past history, coupled with his current abusive conduct, justified Peggy’s belief that a violent explosion was imminent. As he slept, Peggy was terrified and thought about suicide and heard voices in her head repeating over and over, “kill or be killed.” The voices warned her there was going to be killing and to get away.
She went to the spare bedroom and removed the gun from under the mattress, walked back to the bedroom, and fatally shot Mike. After the first shot, she thought he was coming after her so she shot again and fled wildly outside, barefoot, wearing only her underwear. Ignoring the truck and car outside, although she had the keys in her purse inside, she ran over a mile to the neighbors’ house and pled with them to keep Mike from killing her. She thought she had heard him chasing her. The neighbor woman took the gun from Peggy’s hand and gave her a robe while her husband called the sheriff. The neighbor testified Peggy appeared frightened for her life and was certain Mike was alive and looking for her.
Psychologist Marilyn Hutchinson qualified as an expert on the battered woman syndrome and analyzed the uncontroverted facts for the jury. She concluded Peggy was a victim of the syndrome and reasonably believed she was in imminent danger. In State v. Hodges, 716 P.2d 563 (1986), we held it appropriate to permit expert testimony on the battered woman syndrome to prove the reasonableness of the defendant’s belief she was in imminent danger. Most courts which have addressed the issue are in accord.
The majority implies its decision is necessary to keep the battered woman syndrome from operating as a defense in and of itself. It has always been clear the syndrome is not a defense itself. Evidence of the syndrome is admissible only because of its relevance to the issue of self-defense. The majority of jurisdictions have held it beyond the ordinary jury’s understanding why a battered woman may feel she cannot escape, and have held evidence of the battered woman syndrome proper to explain it. The expert testimony explains how people react to circumstances in which the average juror has not been involved. It assists the jury in evaluating the sincerity of the defendant’s belief she was in imminent danger requiring self-defense and whether she was in fact in imminent danger.
Dr. Hutchinson explained to the jury at Peggy’s trial the “cycle of violence” which induces a state of “learned helplessness” and keeps a battered woman in the relationship. She testified Peggy was caught in such a cycle. The cycle begins with an initial building of tension and violence, culminates in an explosion, and ends with a “honeymoon.” The woman becomes conditioned to trying to make it through one more violent explosion with its battering in order to be rewarded by the “honeymoon phase,” with its expressions of remorse and eternal love and the standard promise of “never again.” After all promises are broken time after time and she is beaten again and again, the battered woman falls into a state of learned helplessness where she gives up trying to extract herself from the cycle of violence. She learns fighting back only delays the honeymoon and escalates the violence. If she tries to leave the relationship, she is located and returned and the violence increases. She is a captive. She begins to believe her husband is omnipotent, and resistance will be futile at best.
It is a jury question to determine if the battered woman who kills her husband as he sleeps fears he will find and kill her if she leaves, as is usually claimed. Under such circumstances the battered woman is not under actual physical attack when she kills but such attack is imminent, and as a result she believes her life is in imminent danger. She may kill during the tension-building stage when the abuse is apparently not as severe as it sometimes has been, but nevertheless has escalated so that she is afraid the acute stage to come will be fatal to her. She only acts on such fear if she has some survival instinct remaining after the husband-induced “learned helplessness.”
Dr. Hutchinson testified the typical batterer has a dichotomous personality, in which he only shows his violent side to his wife or his family. A batterer’s major characteristic is the need to blame all frustration on someone else. In a typical battering relationship, she said, the husband and wife are in traditional sex roles, the wife has low self-esteem, and the husband abuses drugs or alcohol. The husband believes the wife is his property and what he does to her is no one’s business. There is usually a sense of isolation, with the woman not allowed to speak with friends or children. Overlying the violence is the intimation of death, often created by threats with weapons.
It was Dr. Hutchinson’s opinion Mike was planning to escalate his violence in retaliation against Peggy for running away. She testified that Mike’s threats against Peggy’s life, his brutal sexual acts, and Peggy’s discovery of the loaded gun were all indicators to Peggy the violence had escalated and she was in danger. Dr. Hutchinson believed Peggy had a repressed knowledge she was in what was really a gravely lethal situation. She testified Peggy was convinced she must “kill or be killed.”
The majority claims permitting a jury to consider self-defense under these facts would permit anarchy. This underestimates the jury’s ability to recognize an invalid claim of self-defense. Although this is a case of first impression where an appeal by the State has been allowed, there have been several similar cases in which the defendant appealed on other grounds. In each of these cases where a battered woman killed the sleeping batterer, a self-defense instruction has been given when requested by the defendant.
The majority bases its opinion on its conclusion Peggy was not in imminent danger, usurping the right of the jury to make that determination of fact. The majority believes a person could not be in imminent danger from an aggressor merely because the aggressor dropped off to sleep. This is a fallacious conclusion. For instance, picture a hostage situation where the armed guard inadvertently drops off to sleep and the hostage grabs his gun and shoots him. The majority opinion would preclude the use of self-defense in such a case.
The majority attempts to buttress its conclusion Peggy was not in imminent danger by citing 19th Century law. The old requirement of “immediate” danger is not in accord with our statute on self-defense, K.S.A. 21-3211, and has been emphatically overruled by case law. Yet this standard permeates the majority’s reasoning. A review of the law in this state on the requirement of imminent rather than immediate danger to justify self-defense is therefore required. [Summary of cases purportedly supporting this conclusion omitted here.] I would deny this appeal.