In order to constitute a defense, coercion or duress must be present, imminent, and impending, and of such a nature as to induce a well-grounded apprehension of death or serious bodily injury if the act is not done. The doctrine of coercion or duress cannot be invoked as an excuse by one who had a reasonable opportunity to avoid doing the act without undue exposure to death or serious bodily harm. And threat or fear of future injury is not sufficient. The compulsion or coercion which will excuse the commission of a criminal act must be present, imminent, and impending, and of such a nature as to induce a well grounded apprehension of death or serious bodily harm if the act is not done; it must be continuous, and there must be no reasonable opportunity to escape the compulsion without committing the crime. A threat of future injury is not enough, particularly after danger from the threat has passed.
At trial, a psychiatrist had testified that defendant suffered from chronic drug dependence and use, chronic depression, battered person syndrome and depression arising from it, and an extremely dependent personality disorder. He was of the opinion that defendant committed the crimes because defendant feared his dealer. Defendant's dealer told him to commit crimes to pay for his drug debt and that threats were made to him and his son. On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court's instruction on his compulsion to commit the crimes was erroneous under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-3209(1), which provided that a person was not guilty of a crime by reason of conduct which he performed under the compulsion or threat of the imminent infliction of death or great bodily harm, if he reasonably believed that death or great bodily harm would be inflicted upon him.
Could the defendant successfully invoke battered person syndrome and compulsion as defenses for the crimes he committed under instructions of his drug dealer?
There is no precedent in this state for a battered person syndrome defense (which is derived from the battered woman syndrome). The battered woman syndrome is not a is not a defense. Self-defense is the defense and evidence about the battered woman syndrome is admitted only for the purpose of aiding the jury in determining whether the defendant's fear and defense claim are reasonable. The defense of compulsion is also unavailable to defendant because he willfully placed himself in a situation in which it was probable that he would be subjected to compulsion or threat. The required element of an imminent threat was missing because defendant had the opportunity to escape.