Franklin County Criminal Law Casebook
Reproduced with permission from
David L. Strait and the Franklin County Public Defender Office
BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME
Also see Self-Defense.
R.C. 2901.06 -- Battered woman syndrome
testimony as evidence relevant to claim of self-defense -- Statute
the defense as an affirmative defense justifying the use of force by the
defendant and permitting the introduction of expert testimony in support of the
R.C. 2945.392 -- Battered woman syndrome
testimony or evidence of impairment of reason -- If plea of not
guilty by reason
of insanity is entered, syndrome may be advanced as requisite impairment of
See 18 ALR 4th 1203 (Battered woman syndrome,
admissibility of expert or opinion testimony) and 73 ALR 4th
993 (Battered woman
syndrome, standard for determination of reasonableness of criminal defendant's
belief, for purposes of self-defense claim, that physical force is necessary -
State v. Goff, 128 Ohio St. 3d 169,
2010-Ohio-6317 – Court ordered evaluation by a prosecution designated expert
who reported he could draw no conclusion on sanity as he was unable to assess
the defendant’s credibility. Defendant maintained this violated his right to
remain silent. Court holds that it does not but reverses because the order in
this case did not limit the expert’s inquiry to the immediate issue whether the
defendant’s actions wee affected by battered woman syndrome.
State v. Haines,
112 Ohio St. 3d 393,
2006-Ohio-6711 -- Expert testimony concerning battered woman syndrome may be
admitted during the state's case in chief to help the jury understand the
victim's reaction to abuse in relation to her credibility. Neither statute nor
State v. Koss (1990), 49 Ohio St. 3d 213, limits
battered woman syndrome testimony to claims of self-defense or insanity.
However, the expert may not render an opinion as to whether the victim suffered
from battered woman syndrome. Dissent focuses on the such testimony being seen
as other wrongful acts evidence.
State v. Koss (1990), 49 Ohio St. 3d 213
-- Paragraphs one through three of the syllabus: (1) The battered woman syndrome
has gained substantial scientific acceptance to warrant admissibility into
evidence. (State v. Thomas
, 66 Ohio St. 2d 518..., overruled to the extent inconsistent herewith.)
(2) A defendant attempting to admit expert testimony regarding the battered
woman syndrome must offer evidence which establishes herself as a 'battered
woman.' (3) Admission of expert testimony regarding the battered woman syndrome
does not establish a new defense or justification. It is to assist the trier of
fact to determine whether the defendant acted out of an honest belief that she
is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that the use of such
force was her only means of escape."
State v. Daws (1996), 74 Ohio St. 3d 1284
-- Appeal was dismissed as improvidently granted, but see dissent for discussion
of appropriate jury instructions, based on State v. Koss (1990), 49 Ohio
St. 3d 213. Position taken is that battered woman syndrome relates to acting in
self-defense. It is not in itself a defense allowing a woman to use force if she
is a battered woman.
State v. Daws 1994), 104 Ohio App. 3d 448
-- (1) Expert testimony on the battered woman syndrome is admissible to dispel
misconceptions of jurors concerning battered women and for the broader purpose
of informing the juror's determination whether the defendant's belief and use of
force were reasonable. Such testimony is not necessarily a comment on the
defendant's veracity, nor is it tantamount to evidence of diminished capacity.
(2) Specific instructions relating to battered woman syndrome are required.
General instructions on self-defense are not sufficient, though instructions on
battered woman syndrome must incorporate the elements of self-defense.
State v. Manning (1991), 74 Ohio App. 3d
19 -- (1) At p. 24: "When a defendant introduces psychiatric evidence and places
her state of mind directly at issue, as here, she can be compelled to submit to
an independent examination by a state psychiatrist." (2) Victim had passed a
polygraph test regarding molestation of stepdaughter and results were known to
defendant. Results were admissible to show her state of mind at the time of the
shooting, in order to rebut her claim of self-defense. (3) No abuse of
discretion in admission of nude photos of the defendant offered to suggest
victim's possible use of photos motivated shooting.
State v. Pargeon (1991), 64 Ohio App. 3d
679 -- It was error to introduce expert testimony concerning battered woman
syndrome at the trial of a man for domestic violence. While such testimony is
appropriate when the battered wife syndrome is advanced as an affirmative
defense, admission by the prosecution is improper because it relates to other
wrongful acts of the defendant and because probative value is outweighed by
State v. Donner (1994), 96 Ohio App. 3d
486, 491 -- "Being a 'battered woman,' in the sense of having been abused twice
and having remained in the relationship, is not synonymous with suffering from
the battered woman syndrome. There are a number of factors relevant to a
determination that a particular defendant suffers from the battered woman
syndrome...Further, as specifically noted by the Ohio Supreme Court in Koss,
suffering from the battered woman syndrome is not, in and of itself, a defense
to an alleged crime. Rather, it is relevant to an attempt by the defendant to
establish that she acted in self-defense." (Citations omitted.)
Quebodeaux v. Quebodeaux (1995), 102 Ohio
App. 3d 502 -- In the context of a domestic relations case claim that wife
signed separation agreement under duress, a finding that she suffered from
battered woman syndrome was not a prerequisite to a finding of duress.
State v. Thomas (1997), 77 Ohio St. 3d
323 -- Syllabus: "There is no duty to retreat from one's own home before
resorting to lethal force in self-defense with an equal right to be in the
State v. Engle (1997), 86 Ohio Misc. 2d
41 -- Battered Woman Syndrome accepted in mitigation of sentence pursuant to
negotiated plea. From remand in State v. Engle (1996), 74 Ohio St. 3d
State v. Sallie (1998), 81 Ohio St. 3d
673 -- Counsel's failure to present expert testimony with respect to the
battered woman syndrome did not amount to ineffective assistance of counsel
where defense was accident rather than self-defense.
State v. Nemeth (1998), 82 Ohio St. 3d 202
-- Ohio recognizes "battered child syndrome" as a valid topic for expert
testimony where a child is charged with killing a parent. This does not amount
to a new defense, but is in support of a claim of self-defense. Such testimony
must be relevant and meet the requirements of Evid. R. 702. Under the current
version of the rule there does not have to be general agreement in the
scientific community in order to satisfy its reliability requirement.
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