“Battered woman syndrome” – the term sometimes used for those who suffered repeated abuse and sometimes reacted violently if they felt their life was in danger – produced sympathy for some women who killed. But no Texas inmate ever received clemency – not from Gov. Ann Richards, who signed the resolution calling for review of such cases, or from her successor, George W. Bush, reports the Dallas Morning News. The movement got caught up in the push to crack down on crime, advocates say. Roliticians, particularly female Democratic governors like Richards, didn’t want to be “viewed as being soft on crime,” said Sue Osthoff of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, whose staff of four is in touch with 850 inmates seeking help.
The lack of clemency in Texas for battered women astounds Sarah Buel, a University of Texas law professor and nationally recognized expert on domestic violence. She hopes an American Bar Association committee on women in the criminal justice system, which she co-chairs, can reignite interest in the topic. Bill Saban, the prosecutor in a case described by the Morning News, recognizes self-defense as valid. But he said he “can’t buy into” past abuse as justification, “because it can excuse almost any killing.”