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Amicus Briefs by Topic




People v. Evelyn Humphrey, Supreme Court of California, December 1995

Brief on behalf of battered woman defendant convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting abusive boyfriend.  Brief argues that trial court erred by instructing jury it could not consider expert testimony on battering in its determination of the reasonableness of defendant’s fear when she shot decedent.

Reversed, 13 Cal. 4th 1073, 56 Cal. Rprt. 2d 142, 921 P.2d 1 (1996) (evidence of battering and its effects was relevant to reasonableness, as well as existence of defendant’s subjective belief in need to defend.)


Commonwealth v. Beth Markman, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 2003

Brief on behalf of battered woman defendant sentenced to death for participating with abusive boyfriend in murder of third person.  Brief argues that court erroneously barred duress instruction on flawed reasoning that defendant “recklessly placed” herself in the situation, and wrongfully precluded battering expert.  Brief analyzes relevance of battering evidence to duress and refutes court’s misconceptions.

Reversed on other grounds.  591 Pa. 249, 916 A.2d 586 (2007)

NCDBW note:  Court finds duress instruction should have been given and this holding is not dicta. (591 Pa. at 283-290, 916 A.2d at 605-612)


People v. Nettie Reay, Supreme Court of California, January 2002

Brief on behalf of battered woman defendant coerced by abusive boyfriend to participate in killing of third person.  Brief argues that jury should have been instructed on defense of duress, and analyzes admissibility and relevance of battering evidence to battered women’s duress claims. 

Affirmed.  Unpublished decision, 2003 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7957, 2003 WL 21983858 (2003.)

NCDBW note:  Affirmed based on retroactive application of new rule barring duress as defense to murder.


State v. Vernita Smith, Supreme Court of Georgia, March 1997

Brief on behalf of battered woman defendant convicted of manslaughter for shooting abusive husband.  Brief argues that defendant should have received specific jury instructions explaining how evidence of battering relates to self-defense. 

Reversed.  268 Ga. 196, 486 S.E.2d 819 (1997)

NCDBW Note:  Defendant entitled to specific jury instruction explaining how experiences as battered person affected state of mind.

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