DV Case Headed for US Supreme Court

A domestic violence case is reportedly set for oral argument next month before the US Supreme Court.

The female defendant in a Dallas criminal case allegedly illegally purchased seven guns for her boyfriend, out of fear that he would kill her and her two daughters if she didn’t help him. The woman was convicted of lying in her application for the guns, because she, in effect, denied that she was under indictment for (but not convicted of) a non-violent crime.

The woman appealed, among other things, the trial court’s exclusion of expert testimony on battered woman’s syndrome as part of her defense. The Supreme Court will not hear that argument though.

In our legal system, the state must prove a criminal defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But guilty of what? Every element required to meet the legal definition of the crime charged.

Based on that, the issue before the Supreme Court will actually be a narrow legal issue:

  1. Is lack of duress an element of the crime charged which the state must prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) as part of its case or
  2. Is duress merely a defense that the defendant must show as part of its defense to the charge?

The former standard, of course, makes it tougher for the state to convict. The Bush Administration reportedly urged the Supreme Court not to take this case and issue on.

Read more at The Family Violence Prevention Fund.