Two weeks ago, I discussed a murder case arising in Buffalo, NY. The defendant claimed that he killed his wife in self-defense. This was required, he maintained, after years of her "spousal abuse."
Although there may be rare instances in which the "spousal abuse" theory has merit, for the most part it's just defense lawyer hokum. The common law of self-defense requires that the alleged defender be reacting to a reasonable fear of imminent grave bodily harm or death. When you off your spouse in circumstances where there is no plausible claim of imminent danger, that is not called self-defense. It has another, more familiar name: Revenge.
But that's not what set the Buffalo story apart. The kicker was that, whatever the general merits of self-defense grounded in spousal abuse, it probably does not fit comfortably where the "self-defense" consists of knifing your spouse forty times, than sawing her head off. But that's what our beleagured defendant did.
The jury was suitably unimpressed, and returned its guilty verdict in an hour. My only question is, what took them the extra 59 minutes?