FL: Abused Spouses, Children Have Right to Self-Defense

In an important ruling for domestic violence victims and their advocates, Florida’s Supreme Court has ruled that abused spouses and children attacked in their own homes may “meet force with force,” even if they have not tried to flee their attackers.

The Court’s opinion read, “We join the majority of jurisdictions that do not impose a duty to retreat from the residence when a defendant uses deadly force in self-defense, if that force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm from a co-occupant.”

The case brought before the court concerned the conviction of Kathleen Weiand, who was found guilty of second-degree murder after shooting her husband Todd in 1994. Weiand was later granted clemency by former Gov. Buddy MacKay and was freed from prison even before her case reached the FL Supreme Court.

The recent decision voids a 1982 ruling which held that deadly force is not justifiable if the abused individual or individuals had an opportunity to flee their attackers. FL Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente wrote that the Court’s earlier ruling was based on the “common myth that the victims of domestic violence are free to leave the battering relationship any time.”


AP - March 21, 1999

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