This comment argues that in order for Virginia's criminal justice system to properly punish women who kill their abusers, effectively restoring their right to self-defend when necessary, Virginia must make two fundamental changes to its self-defense laws. First, Virginia's criminal justice system must advocate for the admission of expert testimony relating to battered woman's syndrome ("BWS"). This reform must be uniformly applied throughout our court system. Second, as Virginia's self-defense laws require both a reasonable fear and an overt act, the subjective standard for reasonable fear must also extend to the overt act requirement. This comment explains the significance of these reforms against the current state of Virginia's self-defense laws. In following these reforms, Virginia's courts will begin to appropriately match the punishment for women who kill their abusers to their culpability levels. As a result, a woman acting in self-defense will be able to claim as much under Virginia law when she defends herself against her abuser.
Kendall Hamilton, Virginia's Gap Between Punishment and Culpability: Re-Examining Self-Defense Law and Battered Woman's Syndrome, 49 U. Rich. L. Rev. 327 (2014).