Expert Article Library
State of Mind in Domestic Violence Case
Date: June 20, 2005
Type of expert: Behavior Sciences--Domestic Violence. Dr. Toby Myers, domestic violence expert
Issue: Can the court exclude expert testimony if it does not specifically address the issue in dispute?
Summary of case: Defendant was convicted of a series of federal firearms violations. In her defense, she claimed that due to battered womans syndrome, she was under duress to buy the guns for her abusive boyfriend, who accompanied her during her purchase of the guns.
Role of the expert: The expert testified to Defendants state of mind and her heightened sense of fear and subjective vulnerability to coercion.
Expert analysis: The Court ruled that Defendants state of mind was irrelevant because in a duress defense argument, the question is simply whether a person of reasonable firmness would believe that the defendant had no other choice than to commit a crimean objective standard. In this case, the fact that Defendant was afraid of her boyfriend (her subjective state of mind) did not excuse her illegal actions and a person of reasonable firmness objectively would not have bought guns illegally in the same situation.
Summary prepared by J. Baik, Student, University of San Francisco School of Law