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Feminist News


September-24-04

CA: Battered Women Bill Signed, Could Help Free Women for Past Crimes

A bill signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) last Friday will allow imprisoned women a chance for a new trial or reduced sentence if they can prove that their crime was committed under coercion of an abusive partner. The law is an expansion of a law that enabled women convicted of killing their abusers before 1992 to seek a new trial or reduced sentence. The new law (SB 1385), sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), will now also cover battered prisoners convicted of violent crimes other than murder of their abuser, as well as those convicted prior to the California Supreme Court ruling in 1996 that guaranteed victims of domestic violence the right to have an expert on battering and its effects testify in their defense at their trial, according to the Associated Press.

Olivia Wang, attorney for the San Francisco-based organization Free Battered Women, lauded the bill in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. In some states you have a chance theoretically of getting clemency from the governor, but nothing as wide in scope as SB 1385, because the issue elsewhere is defined narrowly as just women who killed their abusive husbands.

The law also applies to men, reports Womens eNews, and replaces battered women syndrome with intimate partner battering and its effects in the states penal code. The law could mean release from prison for those who felt forced to commit a crime, knowing that they would be severely beaten by their abuser if they chose not to.

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Media Resources: Womens eNews 9/23/04; Los Angeles Times 9/18/04; Associated Press 9/18/04