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State v. Stewart

Supreme Court of Kansas
243 Kan. 639 (1988)



Peggy Stewart (defendant) shot and killed her husband, Mike Stewart, in Kansas. Peggy was charged with first-degree murder and pled not guilty, arguing that she shot Mike in self-defense. Laura, Peggy’s daughter, testified that Mike beat Peggy and that Peggy developed psychological problems as a result. Over the years, Mike also severely abused Peggy’s 12-year-old daughter, Carla. When Peggy demanded that he stop, Mike threatened to kill her. Mike’s abuse of Peggy continued as he beat her, shot one of her pets, and repeatedly held a gun to her head. Peggy ran away to Laura’s home in Oklahoma and was admitted to the hospital. While there, Peggy told a nurse that she felt as if she wanted to shoot her husband. Peggy returned home with Mike, who threatened to kill her if she ever ran away again. At home, Peggy hid a loaded gun under the mattress. Two hours after going to bed with Mike, Peggy retrieved the gun and killed Mike while he was sleeping. At the time, there were two cars in the driveway to which Peggy had access. At trial, an expert testified that Peggy suffered from battered-woman syndrome (BWS). The trial judge gave an approved jury instruction on self-defense but also added that the jury should decide whether Peggy’s beliefs were reasonable in light of her subjective impressions of the circumstances. The jury found Peggy not guilty. The state appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Lockett, J.)

Dissent (Herd, J.)

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