Professor Kinports Comments on Battered Women’s Self-Defense Claims
June 30, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Kit Kinports, Professor of Law and Polisher Family Distinguished Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law in University Park, was quoted in a New Yorker article discussing self-defense claims raised by victims of domestic violence who kill their abusive partners. The article, When Can a Woman Who Kills Her Abuser Claim Self-Defense?, was written by Rachel Louise Snyder, the author of No Visible Bruises, one of the New York Times Top Ten Books of 2019.
The article focuses on a murder trial in Poughkeepsie, New York, that led to the conviction of Nicole Addimando in connection with the shooting of Christopher Grover, Addimando’s boyfriend and the father of the couple’s two small children. Addimando was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to a prison term of 19 years to life.
Addimando shot Grover as he was lying on the couch in the couple’s apartment. According to Addimando’s testimony, Grover pulled out his gun during an argument and threatened to kill her, but she was able to grab the weapon after he dropped it and shot him in self-defense. The prosecution claimed that Grover was asleep when he died, although a medical examiner testified that the autopsy could not confirm that theory.
Addimando had been subjected to years of physical and sexual violence, some of which Grover videotaped and posted on the website PornHub. The abuse, which Snyder’s article describes as “among the most extreme I have ever come across in a decade of reporting on domestic violence,” included sexually assaulting Addimando and strangling her with a belt until she was almost unconscious. She suffered substantial injuries as a result of the violence, including bite marks on her shoulder and burns on her breasts, thighs, and genitalia.
The prosecution argued that Addimando’s injuries might have been self-inflicted or caused by another man and asked repeatedly why Addimando did not leave Grover. Professor Kinports is quoted in the article as saying that, in evaluating self-defense claims in these cases, “the legal system must start to take into account ‘the social realities that victims face—a lack of alternatives and how dangerous it is to leave.’” When asked whether that approach would “literally allow people to get away with murder,” Kinports responded, “‘[y]ou are allowed to get away with killing someone’”—so long as you were “‘acting in self-defense.’”
At Penn State Law, Professor Kinports teaches and writes in the fields of Criminal Law and Procedure. Her scholarship includes work on self-defense claims raised by victims of domestic violence.
To read the New Yorker article in its entirety, see https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/when-can-a-woman-who-kills-her-abuser-claim-self-defense.