Laurel woman gets 12-year term in man's death

October 04, 1991|By Jackie Powder

A Laurel woman who claimed she killed her companion of 12 years because she was suffering from battered-spouse syndrome was sentenced yesterday to 12 years in prison by a Howard County Circuit Court judge.

"This is a clear case of unlawful homicide," said Judge Cornelius F. Sybert Jr. "It is this court's opinion that the defendant does not fit the profile of a battered woman."

Beverly R. Seward pleaded guilty in May to second-degree murder in the July 29, 1990, shooting death of Archie White, 37. She said White had physically, sexually and emotionally abused her for two years.

Seward, 41, said she shot White in their North Laurel home after he choked and beat her.

Before her sentencing, Seward gave this description of the night of the shooting: "Archie was angrier than I had ever seen him. His eyes were big and bulging and his breathing was fast and deep.

"When he started choking me, I realized I did not know this person."

In pre-sentencing hearings last month, a psychologist who testified for the state found that Seward altered the facts of her relationship with White to portray herself as a battered woman.

Dr. Lawrence Raifman said that, unlike the typical battered spouse, Seward excelled at her career as a medical technician, had her own friends and often challenged White.

He also said it is out of character for a battered spouse to buy a weapon, as Seward did.

Richard Bernhardt, the public defender who represented Seward, criticized Dr. Raifman's definition of the syndrome, saying, "He has given a standard for battered women that is so rigid that no woman could possibly meet the standard and kill her batterer."

Seward told Judge Sybert, "I am not a coldblooded killer, but a woman who feared for her life."

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