GRENOBLE, Feb 6, 2016:
A French court on Friday handed a suspended five-year jail sentence to a woman who shot dead her abusive husband, less than a week after President Francois Hollande pardoned a woman jailed in a similar case.
Initially accused of murder, Bernadette Dimet, 60, was found guilty of committing voluntary violence leading to accidental death.
Prosecutor Therese Brunisso had sought eight years behind bars for Dimet, who shot her violent husband in a forest clearing with a hunting rifle in 2012 after an argument.
She advised the jury to ignore the case of 68-year-old Jacqueline Sauvage, who was pardoned on Sunday after becoming a cause celebre, with more than 400,000 people signing a petition demanding her release.
Sauvage, who was sentenced to 10 years for killing her abusive and rapist husband, will be able to leave prison in mid-April after having spent more than three years behind bars.
Testifying on Thursday, Dimet told the court: “My intention was to commit suicide. He followed me and made me afraid. The shot just went off.”
Brunisso argued that the accused would not have needed four cartridges if she intended to kill herself, and that her husband would not have followed her into the clearing if he had known she was armed.
“It is much more likely she told him to meet her there,” she said.
Dimet, who married at age 16 and has two sons, told the court how her husband considered her “a good for nothing”, would hold her by the hair to force her to have sex and threaten her with a gun.
One of her sons told the court his father had raped one of Dimet’s sisters — impregnating her — and had tried to rape another who was 15 years old at the time.
While acknowledging the “physical and psychological violence” suffered by Dimet throughout her marriage, the prosecutor said this did not give her “a licence to kill”.
The prosecution also dismissed the motive of self-defence, as well as that of “delayed self-defence” which was argued in Sauvage’s case.
Killing someone in response to repeated acts of violence suffered over decades, as in Sauvage’s case, does not meet the test for self-defence under French law.
Experts coined the phrase “battered woman syndrome” in the 1970s to explain the psychological state of a woman subjected to such violence.
This was seen as crucial to understanding why women like Sauvage failed to leave or report their husbands — a question that often arises at their trials.
But the syndrome remains hotly debated, with some scholars and feminists arguing that it portrays women as irrational.
Brunisso warned the jury that “no criminal case is similar to another”.
She also recalled that Dimet had on several occasions refused the intervention of police in her marital disputes and did not want to press charges against her husband or make contact with a support group for beaten women.
“Bernadette Dimet could have escaped her husband by some other means than killing him,” she said.