State Supreme Court Considers ‘Battered-Child’ Defense
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) _ Attorneys for a teen-ager convicted of killing his abusive stepfather asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to allow a new trial on grounds the defendant is a victim of ″battered-child syndrome.″
In a case being watched by child advocates, justices were asked to uphold a state appeals court ruling that overturned Andrew G. Janes’ second-degree murder conviction and granted him a new trial.
The appeals court said the trial judge wrongly refused to allow jurors to hear evidence that Janes acted in self-defense after 10 years of beatings and other abuse at the hands of his stepfather, Walter Jaloveckas.
Prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to review the appellate decision.
″In Washington state, the self-defense law requires that you put yourself in the shoes of the defendant,″ Janes’ attorney, Lenell Nussbaum, told the court. ″It is not easy to wear Andy’s shoes.″
The court is expected to rule before the end of the year.
Janes was 17 when he fatally shot Jaloveckas with a shotgun on Aug. 30, 1988, at the family’s Mountlake Terrace home. Janes also shot at police officers who arrived. One officer and a bystander were slightly hurt.
He was also convicted of two counts of second-degree assault. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and has served nearly four years.
In reversing Janes’ murder conviction in February, the appeals court said battered-woman syndrome - a defense recognized by state law - should be extended to children who kill abusive parents.
The defense is based on the psychological impact of long-term abuse, said to be comparable to post-traumatic stress syndrome.
That finding marked the first time a state appellate court formally recognized battered-child syndrome as a defense in a fatal attack on a parent, lawyers said.
Janes’ mother, Gale Janes, said outside court Thursday that Andy feels safer in prison than he did at home with his stepfather.
Shortly before the shooting, Janes made a tape recording that said what he was doing was right because ″Walter has made mine and my mom’s life and my brother’s life miserable.″
Deputy Prosecutor Seth Aaron Fine told justices there was no evidence Janes was in ″imminent and immediate danger″ - a prerequisite for self-defense claims - when he shot his stepfather.
″His claim is ... he feared something was going to happen later that day or that week ... or some indefinite future time,″ Fine said.
Nussbaum said the stepfather had gone into a tirade the night before the shooting and mumbled what Janes perceived to be a threat. The next morning, Janes’ mother told Janes his stepfather was still angry.
″Andy had 10 years of experience in knowing this man’s violence,″ Nussbaum said. ″The next attack was inevitable.″