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Battered child syndrome is basis for successful clemency petitions.

For many, parricide - the act of murdering one's parents-is society's most shocking crime. Mention of the word alone can conjure up terrifying images - lizzie Borden with her bloody ax or the lifeless bodies of Lyle and Eric Menendez's. parents.

Children who kill their parents have long been accused of committing the ultimate act of betrayal. But recent clemency actions on behalf of children imprisoned for parricide have focused on another type of betrayal - the breach of a child's love and trust by a parent's emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.

Last December, a 36-year-old Maryland woman was released from prison after having served 20 years for the murders of her adoptive parents. Linda Sue Glazier's release came in response to a clemency petition filed on her behalf that said she had suffered years of emotional and sexual abuse, mostly at the hands of her adoptive father.

Glazier is the first person to be granted clemency based on evidence that she was a victim of battered child syndrome, according to Paul Mones, the lead attorney in the clemency action. Glazier's petition says the murder of her parents was an act of self-defense "motivated by a fear of future harm based on a pattern of child abuse."

Evidence of the abuse had not been presented at Glazier's trial or sentencing because at the time, child abuse simply was not considered a defense in parricide cases. Things would be different now, said Mones from Santa Monica, California, because public and political attitudes about child abuse have changed.

Also in December, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles signed an executive order allowing 16-year-old Elec Trubilla, who is serving a minimum 25-year sentence for the stabbing death of his father two years ago, to immediately become eligible for parole. Like Glazier, Trubilla claims that he was a victim of years of abuse by his father.

Trubilla also claim that he was sexually abused by his father's ex-lover, William Strausser who Trubilla says planned and carried out the attack. At the time of his arrest, Trubilla told police he simply helped Strausser kill his father by letting him into his father's apartment. Strausser had told the boy he would rescue him from his father's abuse by killing the elder Trubilla, according to the application for clemency.

Trubilla's trial was similar to Glazier's in that the jury never heard about the alleged years of abuse. In fact, they didn't hear any defense evidence - the defense simply rested after the prosecution's case, Mones said. Strausser was sentenced to death for his role in the murder and is currently on Florida's death row. As a minor, Trubilla was not eligible for the death penalty.

Actions to pardon two other battered children who are serving prison sentences for parricide are in the works. Mones recently appeared before an Indiana parole board to argue for the release of a man who has served 10 years of a 40-year prison term for killing his parents with an ax. Dale Whipple, who was 17 at the time of the murders, said he killed his parents to end his father's savage assaults on Whipple and his younger sister.

Mones said Whipple's clemency action is likely to be a long process because the governor has publicly stated that he is not disposed to giving clemency. But Mones adds that one unique aspect of the case may tip the balance in Whipple's favor. Before the murders, Whipple allegedly revealed the abuse to a school counselor who told Whipple that he should not report it to anyone because it would be too dangerous.

"In very, very few cases does a child ask for help, which is what we want them to do," Mones said.

In Wisconsin, 21-year-old Jeffrey Thrasher has asked the governor to either grant clemency or commute Thrasher's nine-year prison sentence for shooting his father.

The 50-page clemency petition describes horrific scenes of the elder Thrasher's physical and emotional abuse of his wife and two children.

Whipple's and Thrasher's cases are factually and legally similar to the successful Maryland and Florida clemency actions. Both men contend they had no choice but to kill their parents to escape abuse, and neither was able to offer evidence of the abuse in their defense.

And all four cases have something else in common that Mones says may be key to the ultimate success of the pending actions - tremendous community support for the petitioners' release.

"Public awareness is the fulcrum in these cases," Mones said. "Most clemency actions fail because they do not have the support of the community."

The Indiana parole board has not said when it will make its recommendation in the Whipple case. Thrasher's clemency request will now go before a pardon board appointed by the governor.
COPYRIGHT 1995 American Association for Justice
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Author:Hellwege, Jean
Date:Apr 1, 1995
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