The case under consideration is the example of several highly severe criminal acts as well as it is within the field of criminal psychology and psychology in general. The purpose of this paper is to legally analyze the case, identifying its issue, rule, and application. Additionally, the case will be discussed in the context of psychology so that a comprehensive conclusion could be developed.
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Identification of Issues
Evidently, there are numerous issues that People v. Mathews (1979) raise; however, it is possible to focus on two primary problems. The first one is the following: should the psychological effect caused by rape (or “rape trauma syndrome”) be considered as the justification for the lack of malice aforethought (Burgess, 1983)? Secondly, and most importantly, the problem of transferred self-defense is raised in this case.
As it is evident, the defendant, Anita Mathews, was raped by Darelle Ghormley and two of his friends (“People v. Mathews,” 1979). Some weeks later after the incident, she saw Ghormley in the street and attempted to murder him; however, she unintentionally killed Ghormley’s friend, Donald Silva (“People v. Mathews,” 1979). Accordingly, as the defendant was in a state of severe mental distress caused by the traumatic experience, her actions against Ghormley should be read as self-defense (Hasani, 2018). Moreover, the fact that she unintentionally killed a bystander is the subject of questioning if the self-defense justification could be applied.
In the investigation of the case, the defendant cited CALJIC No. 5.13 to exemplify that she was acting against the unlawful aggressor. Thus, the homicide should be justified as self-defense. Moreover, the court, citing CALJIC No. 5.30, stated that the existence of the right of self-defense justifies a complete defense to any crime committed during the exercise of the right (“People v. Mathews,” 1979).
In general, it is stated in the case that the “common law doctrine of transferred intent is recognized and followed in California” (“People v. Mathews,” 1979, para. 14). Accordingly, since the rape trauma syndrome is the justification for the defendant’s self-defense actions, the fact that she unintentionally shot an innocent third party should also be considered self-defense. Thus, the application of the rules is adequate.
The Case in the Context of Psychology
The psychological injury caused by rape also referred to as “rape trauma syndrome” is largely recognized in the academic psychological literature. The article by Burgess (1983) is an early example of research in this field. However, it is possible to mention the study by O’Donohue, Carlson, Benuto, and Bennett (2014), in which the authors recommend not to use the “rape trauma syndrome” in courts, as its application is vague and not precise enough to be the evidence in court. Nevertheless, the negative psychological impact of rape is still recognized to have a vast effect on a person (O’Donohue et al., 2014; West, 2016).
In conclusion, it could be stated with certainty that the People v. Mathews (1979) case is a highly important example of problems of self-defense, the application of rape trauma syndrome as the justification for self-defense, and the problem of transferred intent. It is evident that the case raises problems that are within the field of psychology. Currently, rape trauma syndrome is not recommended to use in courts as the model for justification of the malice aforethought. Nevertheless, the case represents a significant step in the development of criminal law.
Burgess, A. W. (1983). Rape trauma syndrome. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 1(3), 97-113.
Hasani, F. (2018). The criminal offence of murder committed in a state of severe mental distress. Acta Universitatis Danubius Juridica, 14(1/2018), 87-100.
O’Donohue, W., Carlson, G. C., Benuto, L. T., & Bennett, N. M. (2014). Examining the scientific validity of rape trauma syndrome. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 21(6), 858-876.
People v. Mathews. (1979). Web.
West, K. (2016). Cultural effects on rape trauma syndrome: Evaluating the claims.