Interpreting the Feminine in the Criminal Trial: Can the Insights of Rape Myth Scholarship Help Mothers Accused of Killing Their Children?

Authors: Orr, G.

Editors: Hunter, R.

http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/31071/

https://journals.kent.ac.uk/index.php/feministsatlaw/index

Journal: feminists@law

Volume: 9

Issue: 2

Pages: 1-42

Publisher: University of Kent

eISSN: 2046-9551

ISSN: 2046-9551

In cases where mothers were wrongfully convicted of killing their children, both forensic and non-forensic evidence was admitted. Although the expert opinions and evidence were subsequently robustly scrutinised, the same is not true for informal evidence of maternal behaviour. The paper proposes that if we consider an analogous area of criminal justice which has seen interpretations of the feminine strongly challenged, such as in rape trials, then we might learn from rape myth scholarship how better to analyse child death cases. The article explores the difficult issues in rape myth scholarship in identifying what a rape myth is, how widely it is held, and how complex layers of functionality and connections constitute belief systems. By focussing on behavioural normativity and the deployment of fixed beliefs the article proposes a device based on the insights of rape myth scholarship with which to interrogate the behaviour evidence admitted in child death cases. Using the concept of modern mothering myths may prevent the possibility of background evidence being used as a vehicle for smuggling in prejudicial material of little probative value.

Authors: Orr, N.G.F.

http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/31071/

Journal: feminists@law

Issue: Special issue

Publisher: University of Kent

ISSN: 2046-9551

In wrongful conviction cases where mothers were accused of killing their children, (child death cases), both forensic and non-forensic evidence was admitted. Although the expert opinions and evidence have since been robustly scrutinised, the same is not true for informal maternal behaviour evidence. The paper proposes that if we consider an analogous area of criminal justice which has seen interpretations of the feminine strongly challenged, such as in rape trials, then we might learn from rape myth scholarship how to better analyse child death cases. The paper explores the difficult issues in rape myth scholarship in identifying what a rape myth is, how widely held, and how complex layers of functionality and connections constitute belief systems. By focussing on behavioural normativity and the deployment of fixed beliefs the paper proposes a device based on the insights of rape myth scholarship with which to interrogate the behaviour evidence admitted in child death cases. Using the modern mothering myth may prevent the possibility of background evidence being used as a vehicle for smuggling into the criminal justice system, prejudicial material of little probative value.

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