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There are two defences which are especially tailor-cut for women accused of murder

Under the law, there are two defences which are especially tailor-cut for women accused of murder. These are the defences of infanticide and provocation. Infanticide is when the woman is accused of killing her infant who is between the ages of zero to twelve months. The prosecution will prove that the woman had given birth to an infant and that she committed acts which caused the death of her infant child. Once the prosecution proves beyond reasonable doubt that the accused did commit infanticide, then the accused can raise the defence that childbirth has caused an imbalance and disturbance in her mind from which she has not recovered.

Clearly, the basis of this defence of infanticide is a medically provable temporary disturbance of the mind of the accused woman from the hormonal imbalance brought about by pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. The medical condition is called post-partum depression that brings about feelings of hopelessness and gloom to a woman who might feel suicidal or homicidal.

Another defence available to a woman who may be accused of murder is provocation. The specific circumstances surrounding this defence are specifically available to a battered or abused woman. The verbal, sexual, emotional or sexual abuse provides the provocation that enrages the accused and causes her to lose all self-control that she kills the man who abused her. This defence is more commonly referred to as the battered woman syndrome.

Both infanticide and provocation under these circumstances partake of a temporary disturbance of the mind that affects the woman’s control over her thinking and judgment. She may generally know right from wrong but her normal rational processes are overwhelmed by a disturbance in her mind brought about abuse or hormonal imbalances brought about by pregnancy and lactation.

The difference between infanticide and provocation is that the former is a partial defence to murder which will bring about a mere conviction for the less serious offence of homicide instead of murder while provocation is a complete defence that will acquit the accused. Another difference is that while provocation is available for the criminal charge of assault, homicide or murder, the defence of infanticide is available only for the criminal charge of murder.

Both these defences have serious consequences for the accused woman. Her criminal liability may be mitigated or absolved. Notwithstanding the not guilty verdict handed down by a jury, however the woman may still be sentenced to be confined for treatment of her mental disturbance and she will continue to be confined until she is determined to no longer be a threat to herself or to others.

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Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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