Abuse Excuse (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
Description of efforts by some criminal defendants to negate criminal responsibility by showing that they could not tell right from wrong due to abuse by their spouses or parents. Although this defense is not specifically recognized in substantive CRIMINAL LAW, it has been used successfully in some cases to prove, for example, the INSANITY DEFENSE.
Using prior sexual or other physical abuse as evidence in a criminal defense is largely a result of research regarding mental disorders caused by such abuse. Psychologists and other researchers have identified disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and battered woman syndrome, as causes for severe emotional instability that can lead to violent acts by the victim against his or her abuser. Some writers have advocated more widespread use of such evidence to mitigate the punishment of victims who commit violent acts.
Other scholars and writers disagree, noting that substantive criminal law does not recognize the abuse excuse as a legitimate defense except in some limited circumstances, such as those involving the insanity defense. Harvard law professor ALAN DERSHOWITZ coined the term in his 1994 book, The Abuse Excuse, where he deems the studies regarding psychological disorders...
(The entire section is 653 words.)
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