Monday, May 10, 2004

Quick! Defend Yourself Before He Wakes Up!
CNN.com - Woman sentenced to 50 years for shooting husband: "Shanahan claimed she acted in self-defense when she killed her husband at the end of three days of beatings. She said he was angry because she was pregnant with their third child and refused to get an abortion.
But prosecutors said Scott Shanahan had gone back to bed and was not an immediate threat when he was killed."


I once took a course about the role of juries in democracies. A part of the course was a bi-weekly simulation, where twelve of us would be given the facts of the case and then take two hours to deliberate it. We had a case where a man was shot twice, sprawled out on a sofa. The woman who shot him claimed that he was attacking her, and it was self-defense. The only problem is, the bullets had entered the sofa at a downward trajectory, meaning he's been laying down already when she shot him.

Our jury took the full two hours alotted us, and hung ourselves, because half of the class believed her when she changed her story to say "well, he had been abusing me," and the rest of us didn't think it mattered. Now, I'll admit, I don't know the facts behind this specific case, and I know nothing about psychology, particularly under abuse. But my thinking is, if the guy has been beating you for 3 days, and he finally fell asleep, go to the police, don't kill him. I don't think she deserves 50 years, necessarily, but I do think that she murdered a man in cold blood for revenge. Psychologists can argue that she still felt threatened even though he was asleep, but there are other, better ways to defend oneself from a sleeping person.

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