Psychologist Labels Seward A Survivor, Not A Victim

He Tells Sentencing Hearing She Doesn't Fit Battered Spouse Syndrome

September 22, 1991|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff writer

Beverly Seward escaped from an abusive father, kicked a heroin habitand pursued a successful career in the medical field, according to testimony last week at her sentencing hearing.

She's a survivor, not a victim of battered spouse syndrome, as she has claimed, accordingto a psychologist testifying for the prosecution last week at Seward's hearing.

Dr. Lawrence J. Raifman said Seward has fashioned a story portraying herself as a battered spouse to explain why she fatally shot Archie White, her companion of 12 years.

"I do believe she has remorseand is upset that she has taken a life," Raifman said. "But I can see her trying to fill in and create an impression we understand. She wanted to create a sympathetic picture."

Raifman's testimony contradicts the conclusions of psychiatrist Ellen McDaniel, who found that Seward shot White, 37, in their North Laurel town house because she was trapped by fear created by battered spouse syndrome.

Seward pleaded guilty in May to second-degree murder in the July 29, 1989, shooting of White. Circuit Court Judge Cornelius F. Sybert, Jr. heard testimony last week from defense and state witnesses and will sentence Seward during the first week of October. The state is seeking a sentence of 12 years.

Raifman said that aspects of Seward's personality and the nature of her relationship with White were inconsistent with a woman suffering from battered spouse syndrome.

"In a battered spouse syndrome situation, the batterer beats her often, repeatedly, unpredictably, with increasing severity," Raifman said. "To the woman, the man seems omnipotent and she walks around in a shell-shocked state."

Seward, unlike the typical battered spouse, Raifman said, had her own friends, excelled at her work as an emergency medical technician and wasn't afraid to disagree with White.

"There was no problem with her resisting and acting defiantly toward this man," Raifman said. "She wasn't cowering in a corner, there wasn't that terror and panic."

Based on interviews with Seward, Raifman said that violenceentered her 12-year relationship with White in the last two years. On the night of the shooting at the couple's North Laurel town house, after a particularly brutal beating, Seward shot White with a gun shehad bought to protect herself.

Raifman said that in a battered spouse syndrome situation, violence is present from the beginning of the relationship, and it is entirely out of character for a battered spouse to buy her own gun.

"In most battered spouse syndrome situations, the woman just happens on the abuser's weapon," Raifman said. "There's no premeditation whatsoever, no preplanning of any kind."

Seward has said that White grabbed her by the throat and

threw her to the ground on the night of the shooting. Raifman testified that there is no history of a consistent level of battering necessary for a finding of battered spouse syndrome.

Raifman also cited an incident 10 years ago in which Seward was charged with assaulting a man who had gotten her teen-age daughter pregnant. The charges were dropped. He said this behavior demonstrates Seward's "take-charge attitude."

Last week's sentencing hearing concluded with the reading of victimimpact statements from White's family.

One of White's five brothers, Jeffrey, said that he always respected Seward's decisiveness and thought of her as a sister.

He looked at Seward and tearfully toldher that he was the first one to learn of his brother's death.

"Ihad to find a way to call my parents to tell them my brother was murdered," White testified.

"I'm sorry, Bev, but I can't forgive you,I cannot," he said.

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