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SOUTH COUNTY : Seymour’s Bill to Aid Battered Women

U.S. Sen. John Seymour (R-Calif.) said Tuesday that the nation’s justice system is unsympathetic to the plight of battered women and that he supports a bill that would make it easier for women who kill their abusive husbands to claim self-defense.

Seymour, who co-authored the bill as an amendment to a package of proposed crime laws, said courts today are inconsistent because some women who kill their spouses go free while others are not allowed to submit their history of abuse as evidence.

“Our criminal justice system is faced with the dilemma of what to do with these women,” said Seymour, who toured a home for battered women Tuesday in south Orange County. “Are these women guilty of murder? Or perhaps . . . is there an excuse or justification for their action?”

Seymour’s bill calls for a one-year federal study that would examine the legal and medical issues unique to battered women and provide that information to attorneys and judges in hopes of fostering a more consistent application of the law.

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The study would include medical and psychological testimony on “battered-women syndrome,” a compilation of state and federal court cases where the issue has been accepted as evidence, and an assessment by judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys on the effect that such a defense has on criminal trials.

Human Options, the home for battered women that Seymour toured, is one of three in the county that receive funding from private donations as well as federal, state and local grants. Operators asked that the facility’s location be kept secret to protect residents.

The apartment building, which has eight bedrooms, provides shelter each year to about 100 women and children fleeing abusive homes. Officials said, however, that the facilities available for battered women serve only a fraction of those eligible. Last year, more than 14,000 women in Orange County called hot lines for abused women, they said.


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