Last year in West Footscray, a smallish suburb just a stone’s throw outside Melbourne, Victoria Australia, Phillip Bracken pushed his common law wife, Helen Curtis, to the ground. As she lay helpless he took the rifle he was holding and put two rounds in her head.
The next two bullets punched into her abdomen. Finally he fired the fifth and last round, boring a hole through her wrist.
Last week, at the end of his murder trial, the verdict was delivered.
It was not because the accusations against him were not proven. Bracken admitted to the acts, precisely as described above. He was acquitted on the grounds that his domestic partner, known in Australia as a defacto wife, had physically, emotionally and psychologically abused him during the relationship. That abuse rose to a level characterized in Australian law as “intimate terrorism.”
It was also brought out at trial that Curtis had made threats to murder Bracken’s father, which he feared she would follow through with.
The only charge that remains against him at this point is the possession of an unregistered weapon, for which he is out of jail under his own recognizance.
This story puts an interesting twist on recent news coverage of University of Ottawa law professor Elizabeth Sheehy, who has asserted in her new book, Defending battered Women on Trial, that women not only have the right, but the moral obligation to kill their abusers. She contends that women who kill under these alleged circumstances should not be charged or tried for murder.
So, using the rationale of that university law expert, Phillip Bracken is a social justice hero, who has just been recognized as such by the nine women and three men who sat on the jury that gave him a pass.