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Bechtel v. State

Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
840 P.2d 1 (Okla. Ct. App. 1992)


Donna Lee Bechtel (defendant) was the victim of consistent, and often brutal, physical and emotional abuse inflicted by her husband, Ken. One evening, an intoxicated Ken threw Donna to the ground and began beating her head into the floor. Once Donna was able to break free, she grabbed a pistol and shot and killed Ken. Donna was charged with first-degree murder. The trial court conducted an in camera review of expert testimony on battered-woman syndrome from prosecution and defense witnesses. Thereafter, the trial judge refused to allow testimony on the syndrome to be heard by the jury because (1) he found a general lack of acceptance of the theory in the psychological community because the syndrome was not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the psychiatric community, (2) the testimony did not appear to be necessary or helpful to the jury, and (3) the lapse of time between the incident and the psychological testing of Donna could be attributed to her manufacturing the defense. Despite her claim that she acted in self-defense, Donna was convicted of first-degree murder, and she appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)

Concurrence (Parker, J.)

Dissent (Lumpkin, J.)

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