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State v. Norman

North Carolina Supreme Court
324 N.C. 253, 378 S.E.2d 8 (1989)

State v. Norman


For most of her 25-year marriage, Norman (defendant) was badly abused by her husband, including being punched and kicked, having objects thrown at her, being burned with cigarettes and hot coffee, and being forced to eat pet food from a bowl on the floor. Norman’s husband also forced her into prostitution at a local truck stop, humiliated her in public, and constantly threatened to kill her. After being beaten very badly one day, Norman called the police. The police refused to arrest her husband unless Norman filed a complaint, which she was afraid to do. An hour later, Norman attempted suicide and when the paramedics arrived, Norman’s husband insisted that they let her die. Norman sought guidance from a mental-health center and then a social-services office, but Norman’s husband followed her to the social-services office, dragged her out of the interview, took her home and beat her, and burned her with cigarettes. Shortly thereafter, Norman obtained a pistol and shot and killed her husband while he was asleep. Norman was charged with first-degree murder. During the trial, Norman's expert witness, Dr. Tyson, testified that Norman believed she was doomed to a life of torture and abuse leading to her "inevitable" death. Norman also testified that she believed her husband would kill her if he had the chance. Norman was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to six years imprisonment, and she appealed. The appellate court reversed and granted a new trial on the ground that Norman exhibited battered-wife syndrome, and therefore, the trial court should have submitted to the jury a possible verdict of acquittal by reason of perfect self-defense. The North Carolina Supreme Court granted review of the case.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Mitchell, J.)

Dissent (Martin, J.)

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