Expert Testimony of the Battered Person Syndrome, Defendant Gender, and Sexual Orientation in a Case of Duress: Evaluating Legal Decisions

Brenda Russell, Laurie Lynn Ragatz, Shane W. Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


The current study examined the utility of expert testimony of the battered person syndrome (BPS) in a case of duress and the extent to which defendant gender, defendant sexual orientation, and participant gender influence mock jury decisions in a case of duress. Participants (N = 413) read a scenario based on U. S. v. Dixon (2006) and answered questions assessing verdict, guilt, sentence length, duress legal elements, and attributes typically ascribed to victims of abuse. Results showed heterosexual female defendants were assigned the lowest sentences and met more of the legal elements of duress (i. e., were coerced, more likely to be believed, and purchased a gun to prevent harm) and attributes (i. e., experienced severe abuse, learned helplessness) compared to other defendants. When mock jurors received expert testimony, they provided lower rates of guilt and sentencing for defendants. Results also showed the inclusion of BPS expert testimony increased ratings for many of the legal elements of duress and attributes typically associated with intimate partner violence. In addition, results suggested that while heterosexual female defendants are more likely to be believed in a case of duress, expert testimony of BPS is helpful to all defendants. Limitations and future directions for research and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-670
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 13 2012



  • Battered person syndrome
  • Duress
  • Expert testimony
  • Gender
  • Guilt
  • Sexual orientation
  • Verdict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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