'She Chose to Get Rid of Him by Murder, Not by Leaving Him': Discursive Constructions of a Battered Woman Who Killed in R v Craig
Slinkard, Sibley Eden
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation uses linguistic/discourse analysis to critically examine a Canadian murder trial in which a battered woman who killed her husband was unsuccessful in securing a self-defence findingR v Teresa Craig, (2011 ONCA 142). The defendants self-defence plea relied upon testimony on Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) and theory of coercive control in order to highlight the ways in which her actions (in killing her husband) were reasonable reactions to the abuse she and her son experienced. Feminist legal scholars argue that securing self-defence findings for battered women who kill is made difficult by the androcentric nature of the legal system, including the standards by which courts determine the legitimacy of self-defence claims, and the general lack of knowledge about intimate partner violence exhibited by many legal actors. This project attempts to locate these barriers to self-defence for these women in the language/discourse of R v Craig. Because the defendant was unsuccessful in securing an acquittal or a conditional sentence, particular attention is devoted to the various ways participants within the case (and the news media) used discursive means to construct the defendants identity as a woman undeserving of either a self-defence plea or leniency in sentencing. The data for this study comes from two separate sourcesinstitutionally produced transcripts from the case file and a corpus of newspaper reports of the trial. The study utilizes feminist critical discourse analysis, incorporating tools from discourse, conversation, and intertextual analysis. The findings indicate that discriminatory ideologies about battered women informed the way in which the defendant was represented in both the legal system and the media. The study considers the consequences of such representations for not only this trial, but also for how society comes to define battered women and those who kill. Although studies of battered women who kill occupy a significant position within feminist jurisprudence, analysis of these kinds of cases has as of yet been unexplored in linguistic scholarship. Through critical examination of the linguistic details of this case, my work provides empirical support for claims that battered women who kill may be unduly disadvantaged in the legal system.