State v. Kelly Case Brief

Summary of State v. Kelly, Supreme Court of New Jersey (1984)

Defendant: Kelly; the defendant was constantly abused by her husband. One day, the defendant’s husband tried to choke the defendant in public and then he came back at the defendant. The defendant felt that he was going to kill her and she stabbed him with scissors. During the trial, the defendant wanted to use self-defense as her defense and she wanted to introduce expert witness who was going to tell the jury about the battered-woman’s syndrome. The trial judge did not allow the expert witness to take the stand and now the defendant was convicted of reckless manslaughter.

Issue: Did the trial judge err in not allowing the expert witness testify about the battered-woman’s syndrome?

Holding: Yes

Legal Reasoning: The court ruled that the expert witnesses’ testimony was totally relevant to the defendant’s defense and it could have given the jury more understanding of the honesty of the defendant’s claims. The court stated that this testimony could have helped the jury to understand whether a reasonable person would have acted in the same way as the defendant did under the given circumstances. So the court reversed the conviction and remanded the case.

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