Psychological self‐defense jury instructions: Influence on verdicts for battered women defendants

Jessica P. Greenwald, Alan J. Tomkins, Mary Kenning, Denis Zavodny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Ewing (1987) has proposed a new legal doctrine called ‘Psychological Self‐Defense,’ which is intended to provide a legal justification for a killing committed under the threat of extremely serious psychological injury. This study examines the effect of such an affirmative defense on the verdict in two vignette cases in which a battered woman killed her abuser. One‐hundred ninety‐six subjects issued verdicts after reading the case vignettes and a series of jury instructions which varied by self‐defense instruction (Psychological Self‐Defense Only, Physical Self‐Defense Only, Psychological and Physical Self‐Defense, or none of these). Only Psychological Self‐Defense instructions significantly influenced verdict patterns, primarily by shifting would‐be voluntary manslaughter convictions to acquittals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-180
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral sciences & the law
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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