Attitudes toward battered women who kill: Defendant typicality and judgments of culpability

Brenda L. Russell, Linda S. Melillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Battered woman's syndrome has become highly controversial, particularly when used as a defense in cases of homicide. According to legal scholars and social scientists, the characteristics associated with the syndrome constitute a standard that jurors use to evaluate battered women. This study evaluated the hypothesis that jurors use prototypical standards of battered women to reach conclusions about defendants in these cases. Results supported the hypotheses that verdicts are directly influenced by typicality and response history (passive vs. active) of the defendant. Defendants portrayed as atypical with an active response history received more guilty verdicts and were less credible. Conversely, typical defendants with passive response histories were most likely to receive verdicts of not guilty and found to be more credible. Traditional gender effects showed men were more likely than women to render guilty verdicts in all conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-241
Number of pages23
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • General Psychology
  • Law


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