Case Study: DePetris vs. Kuykendall Essay

In the case of DePetris versus Kuykendall, I do not believe the state of California acted in the proper manner when prosecuting Kelly DePetris. When reading this case many thoughts ran through my head and provoked anger inside of me as a result from Dana DePetris’ threats toward his child. As an elementary education major, children mean the world to me and I think Kelly DePetris (from here on known as the appellant) only acted out of the well being of her child.

One of the first things this case mentions is that Dana DePetris had a short temper and was violent to the appellant starting in late 1991, only a year after they were married and around the time in which their child was born. The case also mentions profanity and threats made by Dana DePetris toward his child. I believe that one, shall we say, “excuse” for the appellant’s actions would have been for the protection of her child. Dana DePetris continued to threaten the appellant and the child for many years after that and each time the threats only getting worse.

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The appellant’s claim of “imperfect self-defense” would be justifiable in this case. The appellant honestly felt her life was in danger. She also felt the life of her child was in danger. These were not petty thoughts the appellant had made up in her head. She had family and friends to prove these actions of Dana DePetris to be true. When researching this case more, I found that the appellant had found a journal belonging to her husband, which contained his nasty thoughts, in detail, about killing the appellant or their child.

When the appellant tried to use this journal as evidence in the courts it was thrown out because it was claimed to be “inadmissible” evidence. This journal was the appellant’s main defense for her reason to kill her husband and the prosecuting attorneys did everything in their power to have this evidence thrown out of the courtroom. These attorneys also limited the statement from Psychologist Nancy Kaser-Boyd when she testified that the appellant’s actions were that of a woman who had been battered.

Kaser-Boyd made this statement after conducting strict psychological tests on the appellant and by talking with her family and reviewing her police statements. The prosecution knew right from the beginning that their case was going to be a tough one and that is why they pulled all of this information away from the jury and the courtroom. The appellant did not commit first-degree murder when she killed her husband. In order for someone to be found guilty of first-degree murder the government must prove that the person killed another person with malice aforethought and/or the killing was premeditated.

To kill her husband with malice aforethought means the appellant would have had to deliberately, intentionally, or recklessly kill him with extreme disregard for his life. To premeditate his murder the appellant would have had to go through intensive planning or deliberation to kill Dana DePetris. The amount of time needed for premeditation of a killing depends on the person and the circumstances. It must be long enough, after forming the intent to kill, for the killer to have been fully conscious of the intent and to have considered the killing.

In the case presented to us here, the appellant was guilty of neither of these actions. She definitely did not premeditate his murder. Dana DePetris was the one who woke the appellant and told her to let the dog outside. He was also the one who made his wife carry the gun with her as she completed his demand to do this task. Dana DePetris threatened his wife as he told her to let the dog out because he needed his sleep so he could “take care” of her later (when she did not come up with the rent money).

These demands, not only the ones Dana DePetris made that night but also the ones he had made throughout their marriage, caused the appellant to even think of killing herself that night. But she didn’t. Instead she thought of all the horrible ways her husband had treated her and their son. She told herself she could not kill her husband, not there, not at that time, but in daze caused by her fear and emotional disability she pulled the trigger of the gun she was holding. And as she went to call 911 that night she heard the gun go off once more.

She “heard” the gun go off, not saw it, or pulled the trigger again, she “heard”. This statement, which is also found in the case study, clearly proves that the appellant was not coherent with her actions. She, at this point in time, had suffered three, maybe four, years of physical and emotional abuse from her husband. First-degree murder in California includes a killing that is willful, deliberate, and premeditated (Cal. Penal Code S 189). The appellant did not plan to kill her husband. She wanted to get away, but could not because she was afraid her child would be harmed.

She knew that something awful was going to happen in the next few hours of her life to either herself or the child, and these horrific thoughts cluttered her conscious mind. Any person, whether male or female, who thinks their life may be in danger will not be thinking clearly in the mere hours before their “anticipated” death sentence. The appellant’s mind was not in a state to know what her body was doing. Even when she tried to stop the killing, she continued to hear gunshots. This is clear proof that she was mentally unstable from the abuse she had received from Dana DePetris.

Does this state of mind of the appellant justify her actions for killing her husband? I would have to say yes. The appellant knew it would only be a matter of time before her time or the time of her child would be over in the eyes of Dana DePetris. She was afraid to seek outside help, for fear that it would get her nowhere except for in a worse situation than she was already in. The appellant acted in a manner that she thought would only protect herself and her child. Today, women all over the world are being beaten by their spouses or romantic partners.

Some of these women are seeking out help from professionals and the government, but many are still too scared to do anything to help themselves. Counseling does not always help in cases of Battered Women’s Syndrome, but this excuse alone does not justify the appellant’s actions in this case. The appellant’s time was running out, according to her husband, and she had not other option than to kill her sleeping husband in order to save herself and her son. Oddly enough, I have to compare this case to some of the cases we discussed in class about abortion.

In defense of abortion protests and the, accidental or planned, murders of abortion performing doctors, I remember one person saying, “We may be killing one person, but we are saving many more. ” I think of that to be true in this case also. Though Dana DePetris lost his life, the lives of Kelly DePetris and Travis DePetris were saved, along with the lives (found from more research of the case) of Dana’s homosexual companion, his stepdaughter, his first wife, and his friend’s girlfriend whom he raped. When you think about things from this perspective, they automatically look a lot more optimistic.

Kelly DePetris should not have been convicted of first-degree murder for the plan and simple fact that she was not mentally stable enough to know what she was doing or what the consequences would be. Should she be let off of the hook for this crime (in honesty this was still a crime)? No. Kelly DePetris should have received some psychiatric help and some emotionally help for all the years she was abused. She should also be punished with jail time for her crime, but a life sentence for first-degree murder is not an appropriate sentence for this case.


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