A woman and her husband were convicted of murder, and the woman appealed her conviction, arguing that her husband’s severe abuse prevented her from fairly defending herself at trial. Evidence of the abuse was discovered one year after the completion of trial, when the woman and her husband were placed in separate prisons. In reviewing the trial court’s denial of post-conviction relief, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island assessed whether the trial court considered if the additional evidence was newly discovered, material, and outcome determinative, and then whether such evidence, if appropriately before the court, warranted post-conviction relief. Upon hearing the newly discovered evidence, the court found that the pattern of extreme physical and mental abuse by her husband prevented the woman from assisting her attorney in presenting a reasonable defense at trial—rather, the evidence supported that the woman was suffering from battered women’s syndrome, which caused her, contrary to her own interests, to support her husband’s story at trial. Moreover, the evidence was and could only have been discovered after the wife was in prison and more removed from the husband’s domination and influence. The court found that this evidence warranted post-conviction relief, vacating the case and remanding it to the lower court for a new trial.
McMaugh v. State