Abused women in jail tell Schaefer of their plight

January 15, 1991|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Evening Sun Staff

Gov. William Donald Schaefer says he sympathizes with women imprisoned for killing or assaulting their abusive mates, but he has no plans to grant pardons to the women.

After talking to five inmates at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup yesterday, Schaefer seemed to rule out pardons, but said he hopes the state Parole Commission will consider the women's history of being abused when it considers parole.

"I am going to get on the parole board," Schaefer said. "I think they ought to do more."

In addition, the governor said he probably will support a bill pending in legislature that would allow more women to present evidence at trial that they killed or assaulted a man because they had "battered woman syndrome."

One of the imprisoned women, Carolyn Sue Wallace, 40, said the two-hour meeting with Schaefer often was emotional, as the prisoners cried telling their stories of abuse and described their crimes.

"I wanted him to have an understanding of what we go through," said Wallace, who is serving a 20-year sentence for killing her husband.

Joyce Danna, who began serving a life term in 1978 for shooting her husband to death, said she, as a battered woman, should not be in prison. But, she is not overly optimistic about the possibility of a pardon from Schaefer.

"It's really up to him. He has decisions to make," Danna said.

A bill co-sponsored in the House of Delegates by Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., D-City, would make it clear that judges may accept testimony about battered woman syndrome.

"It's inconsistent in the courts now," Montague said. "Some courts exclude it. . . . Some don't. I think judges don't really know how to deal with the psychological, analytical aspects of it."

Similar bills have been defeated for several years running in Annapolis. Schaefer's support behind this year's bill would "mean an awful lot," Montague said.

Schaefer visited the prison yesterday with Rep. Constance A. Morella, R-8th, who has championed the issue of domestic violence in Washington.

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