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Self-defense in the Alexandra Lange case: battered woman syndrome

Alexandra Lange case

Alexandra LANGE was acquitted on March 23, 2012 by the Douai Assize Court.

It was taken into account not only of her state of battered woman for many years, but also of the fact that her gesture was neither a deliberate choice, nor premeditated, but protective.

As a result, the self-defense was retained under article 122-5 of the Penal Code which provides:

  • “Is not criminally responsible the person who in front of an unjustified attack against himself or others;
  • performs at the same time an act commanded by the need for self-defense of herself or others;
  • unless there is a disproportion between the means of defense employed and the seriousness of the infringement ”.

If self-defense had not been retained, Alexandra LANGE could have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

It is different in Canada, where in a context of domestic violence, battered woman syndrome could be highlighted even if the criteria of self-defense cannot be retained.

Battered Woman Syndrome (SFB)

This syndrome is defined by a set of clinical signs depriving the person who has it of the possibility of finding a reasonable solution to save himself from the situation of terror and vital danger in which he finds himself.

Battered Woman Syndrome (BBS) first came to light in Canada over 20 years ago.

This syndrome can be limited to clinical signs manifesting a post-traumatic state following violence suffered over a long period.

The person suffering from this syndrome feels totally trapped in the vicious circle of violence and develops a legitimate and constant fear of being killed.

The Lavallée affair is an illustration of this syndrome

The facts: Angélique Lyn Lavallée was the common-law partner of Kevin (Rooster) Rust for 3 or 4 years. Their relationship often punctuated by arguments and acts of violence and their differences could last 2 or 3 days and sometimes even several weeks. She has often been the subject of physical assault by her partner. Between 1983 and 1986 she had to go to hospital several times because of injuries including severe bruises, multiple bruises, broken nose and black eye.

A friend saw Mr. Rust beat her and saw Mrs. Lavallée twice point a gun at her spouse threatening to shoot him if he touched it again.

Other witnesses also saw his injuries.

On the evening of August 30, 1986, the couple gave a reception, which had become rather noisy. At one point, Mr. Rust was chasing Ms. Lavallée outside the house. Later we heard the sounds of "someone beating someone else" then 1 and a 2nd gunshot and the screams of a woman. Ms. Lavallée had indeed fired 2 shots at her husband with a rifle, the first missed but the second hit him in the back of the head, killing him as he was about to leave the room.

A police officer and a doctor later observed marks and wounds on Ms. L's body, which confirms her statement that she had to defend herself.

During Ms. L's second degree murder trial, a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of battered women said that Mr. R's terror of Ms. L made her feel vulnerable and she felt devalued and devalued. trapped in a relationship from which, despite the violence, she could not get out. He also stated that the continued violence to which she was subjected was a threat to her life and that she had used a gun in desperation, believing that Mr R intended to kill her.

This woman was acquitted because it was felt that the act of self-defense was characterized, as she reasonably believed that there was no other solution than to take the life of her attacker in order to survive.

Thus, already 20 years ago Canada took into account in the assessment of a woman's reaction to an assault, the daily reality of these women, their situation, their psyche which can be very different from those of men, especially in situations of domestic violence.

The presumption of self-defense recognized in Canada is at the heart of the debate.

The presumption of self-defense

Today in France, an overly archaic and traditional assessment of self-defense with its 3 strict criteria should be called into question, which is not appropriate in domestic homicide cases.

This is why it would be advisable to reverse the burden of proof and to speak of presumed self-defense.

This presumption of self-defense already exists in French law in certain situations:

Thus the provisions of article 122-6 of the Penal Code which provides that in certain situations, at night, in an inhabited place, when the victim is confronted with a situation of violent aggression, it is allowed to invoke self-defense : "The person who performs the act is presumed to have acted in self-defense:

  1. To push back, at night, entry by break-in, violence or ruse into an inhabited place.
  2. To defend oneself against the perpetrators of theft or pillaging carried out with violence. "

When you are at home, in your home, in safety and an individual enters at night, that you defend yourself to the point of killing the person, you are therefore presumed to have acted in self-defense.

This means that :

  • You don't have to prove that you are in self-defense.
  • The Advocate General will have to show that you are not in self-defense.

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