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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Robert Mendelsohn


This study focused on discretion; particularly the discretion of a prosecuting attorney to bring homicide charges in situations where a battered woman kills her battering partner under conditions which may be viewed as self- defense. Prosecuting attorneys from a four state region were administered a two-part questionnaire in an attempt to study not only discretion, but also other factors which may enter into a charging decision. Factors considered included demograpic [sic] characteristics, legal, extralegal, and organizational variables, and their relation to the sociology of law. The topic of Battered Woman Syndrome was selected due not only to its controversial nature, but also due to the fact that, as this study illustrates, these situations allow prosecutors an incredible amount of discretion in making a charging decision. In defining the situation, the same variables used by one prosecutor to justify a first degree murder charge, may be the same variables used by another prosecutor to justify a no charge decision.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Abused women
Self-defense for women
Prosecution -- Decision making
Victims of family violence




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