Elizabeth Sheehy can’t even justify herself

When responses started flooding in to the Ottawa Citizen article about a new book by law professor, Elizabeth Sheehy, the professor had a choice; face the criticism bluntly or weasel out of her responsibility. Sheehy is a feminist so she chose the latter option.

A Voice For Men and Barbara Kay, writing for The National Post, both addressed the insanity of Sheehy’s recommendations in her book Battered Women on Trial but it was Kay’s article that moved the good professor to explain herself. And what a treat that was. The recommendations Sheehy put forth are quickly summarized as follows:

1. Battered women who kill their spouses should not be tried for murder.
2. They should not go to jail as they have already been “prisoners of war” in their own homes.
3. We should refine the definition of “excessive force” to allow women who kill sleeping men the ability to claim self defence.
4. Charging women, who have murdered men, with murder is “arbitrary”

Surprisingly, the Canadian public are not yet ready to tolerate a public academic and legal scholar advocating the murder of their sons, brothers, husbands, or male colleagues. Barbara Kay’s own rejection of Sheehy’s intellectually bankrupt ideology seems to have hit its mark, but actually gave the morally-depraved professor entirely too much credit.

Where Kay excused her with the comment that “[w]hen ideology takes up the brain space normally reserved for reason and the golden principle of equality under the law, the very best minds can go AWOL” Elizabeth Sheehy should not be coddled as one of “the very best minds”. Despite that misplaced generosity by Kay, she correctly points out that the existing “theory” called Battered Woman Syndrome, used to excuse murder and other violence by claimed abuse victims, is essentially a pile of shit.

In fact, “battered woman syndrome” (BWS) is merely a theory, with the “science” behind it too flimsy to support any change to the legal codes. (See David M. Paciocco’s 1999 book, Getting Away with Murder: the Canadian criminal justice system. Ironically, Paciocco was a colleague of Sheehy’s at Ottawa U’s law faculty.) Moreover, BWS has been rejected in other high courts, such as Australia’s, which used Canada as a (negative) precedent.

The University of Ottawa’s murder advocate replied “I wish I were the radical that columnist Barbara Kay claims I am in her column”.

That’s the first line of Sheehy’s “defence” of her own position, and she’s already lying. Barbara Kay does not claim Sheehy is a radical. The word “radical” appears nowhere in Kay’s criticism. Rather, the columnist correctly identifies Sheehy as follows:

She is an ideologue, whose gender-biased advocacy has been honoured by the Canadian Bar Association. Which begs the questions: How can a Bar Association throw centuries of hard-won legal protections out the window in the name of political correctness? And how can a faculty of law endorse such intellectual corruption in their classrooms?

Sheehy next positions herself as no more than simply a reporter of the news.

I am a rather boring law professor who knows history and the law. The Ottawa Citizen reported that I said women are justified in killing their abusers, even if they are asleep or passed out. The thing is, back in 1982, a Nova Scotia jury of Jane Stafford’s peers said just that, when they acquitted her of murder after a lengthy trial for the death of her husband Billy Stafford — of Life With Billy fame.

The thing is, Professor Sheehy, for a rather “boring” law professor, you absolutely have had a lot to do with shaping the current law that resulted in those acquittals.

I don’t find her boring at all. Sheehy has an impressive feminist biography that outlines her extensive involvement with Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) which has been, arguably, the most aggressive organization in lobbying for changes to the law. “As intervenors at the Supreme Court of Canada, LEAF has argued that…women who murder their husbands who battered them may have a defence of battered women’s syndrome.”

Where Sheehy tells us she’s just studying legal history, absolving herself of responsibility for what the courts have already decided, it is a contemptuous farce. LEAF credits Sheehy with being “involved in many law reform activities around equality rights and social justice issues and was a co-counsel for LEAF in its intervention in R v JA (“advance consent” to sexual assault) (2011 SCC 28).”

The professor would have us believe that it’s not her who thinks battered women should get away with murder, it is merely a precedent set by a jury of our peers and a Canadian Supreme Court judge. She doesn’t think it’s important that she was key in instituting the laws that caused them to reach those decisions. Let us make this clear: Sheehy claiming that the acquittal of women who have murdered isn’t her fault is like Charles Manson claiming he didn’t kill anyone because he, himself, never held the knife.

How stupid does she think we are?

Sheehy backpedals with “I would never advocate homicide and I don’t in my book. Instead, I ask readers to judge for themselves.” She pretends that her book isn’t advocating a pro-murder position at all. All of Sheehy’s hard work devoted to changing the legal system, for which she has won an award, is shoved in the closet when people start asking questions. “Who, me? I’m just a boring nobody,” says the serial killer. In fact, isn’t that what the neighbours always say after the fact? “He looked like an average guy.”

Now, rather than making a moral argument for pre-emptive murder, Sheehy is attempting to downplay her own published position as if it’s merely a legalistic weather report.

We are being asked to ignore what The Ottawa Citizen reported:

Would it not be just, Sheehy asks, “to shift the risk of death to those men whose aggressions have created such dehumanizing fear in their female partners?”

Battered women can justly kill abusive partners “because a woman in that circumstance has already lived in captivity,” she said. “She’s already lived in a form of imprisonment and enslavement in a relationship like that.”

Sheehy was pleasantly surprised by the higher-than-expected number who were either acquitted or had charges dropped. But she said it was “disappointing and worrisome” to see how many women had pleaded guilty.

Mandatory minimums are a “huge, huge barrier” to justice for battered women who kill their abusers, she said.

But forget what you just read. Elizabeth Sheehy is in control of history and she wishes to delete her own words from the public record. She’s studied history and, as a feminist, is well aware that it can be rewritten. Let’s call this the Herstory of Elizabeth Sheehy, in which she is completely innocent of advancing any personal agenda or exercising her position to install a pussy pass for murder into the legal system.

So how long has Sheehy been corroding equality in the law? From a downloadable doc about a seminar she gave:

Elizabeth Sheehy has worked in the area of legal defences for battered women who kill for 20 years; she too worked on the SDR and has participated in research and publications with respect to reform of the law of self-defence. For example, her publications include:

* Thrice Punished: Battered Women, Criminal Law and Disinheritance (2004) 8 Southern Cross University Law Review 96. With Barbara Hamilton.

* Battered Women and Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (2001) 39 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 529.

* Review of the Self-Defence Review (2000) 12 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 197.

* The Response of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies to: Reforming Criminal Code Defences. Provocation, Self-Defence and Defence of Property. (Ottawa: Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, 2000).

* Stop Excusing Violence Against Women! NAWL=s Position Paper on the Defence of Provocation. With Andrée Côté and Diana Majury. (Ottawa: National Association of Women and the Law, 2000).

* What Would a Women’s Law of Self-Defence Look Like? (Ottawa: Status of Women Canada, 1995).

* Developments in Canadian Law after R. v. Lavallee in Women, Male Violence and the Law, Julie Stubbs, ed. (Sydney: Institute of Criminology, 1994) 174.

* Defending Battered Women on Trial: The Battered Woman Syndrome and Its Limitations (1992) 16:6 Criminal Law Review 387. With Julie Stubbs and Julia Tolmie.

And what was the aim of her seminar?

“This course is aimed at both preparing future lawyers –that is, you!— to defend battered women caught up in the criminal justice system and at developing a package of materials to aid defence lawyers charged with this important task.”

How’s the weather up there, Elizabeth?

In her lame attempt to defend her own arguments, this law professor has shimmied from a moral argument to an economic one. She explains her real concern is not helping women legalize murder but to pose an intriguing question of resources: “Is it an appropriate expenditure of taxpayer dollars to prosecute battered women [who murder] at full tilt, in light of the compassionate response of Canadian judges and jurors who hear all the evidence?”

See? Its not about whether killing your spouse is justified, or morally defensible, it’s just cheaper if we don’t prosecute women who kill. Perhaps the University of Ottawa will grant Sheehy an honorary degree so she can teach economics next semester.

In regards to whether or not battered women should be given the opportunity to murder with impunity, we should look closely at the honesty of their advocates. As it stands, Elizabeth Sheehy can not even justify herself.

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