Recently, the state’s supreme court issued an opinion in an interesting Arizona criminal law case involving a defendant’s justification defense to several kidnapping and child-abuse charges. The case required the court to determine whether the defendant’s proposed evidence that she was afraid her husband would hurt or kill her if she did not go along with the continued abuse of their children was admissible justification evidence or inadmissible evidence of diminished capacity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the evidence should have been admitted, and ordered the defendant to receive a new trial.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was arrested, along with her husband, when two of the couple’s three daughters broke out from their locked bedroom, ran to a neighbor’s home, and reported that their parents had kept them locked in a room and abused them over the course of several years. Both the defendant and her husband were charged with several counts of kidnapping and child abuse. Prior to trial, the cases against the two defendants were severed.
The defendant planned to testify that she participated in the abuse of her children only because she was afraid of her husband. In support of her claim, the defendant was prepared to testify that her husband physically abused her and maintained very tight control over her. For example, when the defendant left the house, she was required to keep her phone on at all times so her husband could hear her conversations. The defendant also had photographs of scars that were the result of her husband attacking her with a knife.