The Basic Concepts of Criminal Defense

The basic concepts of criminal defenses are to prove your client innocent or get them a lesser criminal charge. Therefore you and or your staff (paralegal(s)) needs to research the type of crime your client is being accused of to see if there are any prior

cases similar to the charges that are being brought about your client.

Once you find cases similar to your case, the first item to look for is the result of the case guilty or not guilty, original charges filed or lesser charges determined by the jury.

Appropriate defenses are developed by determining what made the cases defense or set it up for failure. Was there any or enough evidence? What facts are you able to find in those cases that my benefit you case? What failed that case that you should be cautious of? What failed that case that may help your case? Once you find the pieces you need you will then entice your research of the pieces to benefit your clients’ defense.

The criminal defense used in the felony case I chose apparently was battered wife defense. In researching the term battered wife defense I found various definitions but the most descriptive info I found was as follows, “Battered woman syndrome describes a pattern of psychological and behavioral symptoms found in women living in battering relationships.” People v. Romero, 13 Cal Rptr 2d 332, 336 (Cal App 2d Dist. 1992); See Walker, L., The Battered Woman Syndrome (1984) p. 95-97. There are four general characteristics of the syndrome:

1. The woman believes that the violence was her fault.

2. The woman has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere.

3. The woman fears for her life and/or her children’s lives.

4. The woman has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.

According to, omnipresent means present everywhere at the same time. Omniscient means having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things. “Apparently battered woman’s syndrome has been used in criminal cases since the late 1970s. Experts must qualify to testify on this syndrome as they must in any other case.” (

The defense developed in the case was appropriate due to the fact that Dixie Shanahan had been abused for years on end even though it would come and go in spurts. I don’t think there could or would be more appropriate defense per her case accept for maybe temporary insanity. I actually can see both sides of it though. When reviewing the description of the assignment it says that she went directly to the closet got the gun & shot him dead blank then wrapped his body and closed off the room for a year. Per her defense she said that he already had the gun and she got a hold of it more or less. In any event she was in fear of her life and the lives of her children. What ever happened at that moment, she pulled the trigger. She is guilty of murder or voluntary manslaughter.

Being that I have been in a similar situation, seeing my mother battered for the first seven years if my life as a child and also being the target of that abuse here and there myself during those seven years I can understand that fear. My mother lost what would have been my twin brothers due to being knocked down a flight of stairs. Six years later, I saw my mother and my now step father almost murdered in front of my 7 year old eyes. If I hadn’t made a sound that made them stop then me and my little sister and brother may have been with out the parents that raised us. Luckily, they didn’t see me, but I had caused enough ruckuses to make them run from the scene of the crime they had just committed. My mother never knew that I had seen everything being that I was too afraid to tell her. As a result of that night, we moved to a different state. I couldn’t see the whites of my mothers’ eyes for almost 2 years because they were solid red due to the blows that she had received from a 2×4 board. After 3 years of being on the run away from the psycho my parents decided to move back to our home state. I started having major seizures again (being epileptic) and apparently I started acting out. I finally told my mother that I had seen everything. I actually feel guilt for that sometimes because I could have been a witness against them yet as a child fear totally took over.

Being that I saw so much and also experienced physical abuse as a child I can understand why the Dixie did what she did and why the citizens of her community and the governor gave her leniency. Due to what I experienced and witnessed I am a very head strong person and I can say with no guilt that I would do the same thing if I was as weak as her and had gotten to my limit as did she. Though being as head strong as I am due to experiencing what I did experience, I would leave the first time around if a man ever tried to do to me what my mother and Dixie experienced. With all the laws we have today pertaining to spousal abuse and bodily harm in general no one can say that there is nothing that can be done for actions that occur in that mannerism.

A case I found that was quite similar to the one I chose for this project was the recent case of Mary Winkler, the wife of the Tennessee Minister Matthew Winkler, who was at the time the minister of the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Selmer, Tennessee. It is almost a duplicate situation of Dixie Shanahan’s case. She was continuously physically, mentally and sexually abused. All of which lead to her a point that she could not handle it anymore. She admitted to getting the gun yet claimed that she thought it didn’t have a bullet in it. She shot her husband from behind in the back. Yet, she plead insanity was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and released in august of this year from a mental institution. She didn’t even get half of the time that Dixie got. ( As you can see as time goes on changes happen. Even years prior to Dixie’s case she could have gotten the death penalty, though she didn’t. It all depends upon the time of the crime, how and where the crime occurred and last but not least the minds of the jury, how they see your situation evidence or no evidence it is the jury that makes the final decision.