Abuse Excuse

Definition - What does Abuse Excuse mean?

The abuse excuse is a strategy employed by a defense attorney prior to and at trial. It is used in an attempt to show that past torment caused the defendant to commit the criminal act that they allegedly committed. When this strategy is employed, the defendant maintains that they were a victim of extreme physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse for a prolonged period.

Justipedia explains Abuse Excuse

Although it is not recognized as an "official" criminal defense, this approach has been used successfully in some cases. Specifically, it has been used to show that prolonged torment resulted in a specific condition that could be classified as "insanity" at the time of the alleged crime.

The defense used this approach with some measure of success in the Lyle and Erik Menendez murder trial(s). In this case, the brothers were accused of killing both of their parents.

At first, trial the defense maintained that the charges should be reduced, and claimed that the boys committed the crime after years of sexual, verbal and emotional abuse. While some jurors were swayed by the argument, others remained unconvinced, and the panel could not reach a verdict. However, the jury in the second trial were not convinced at all, and convicted both brothers of first-degree murder.

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