So here's the deal: A woman who was abused for years can visit her estranged husband in the intensive care unit, become angry, drive home to get a gun, return to the hospital, shoot him in the head and kill him in the ICU . . . .
And wind up on home confinement.
This may be an appropriate sentence in this particular case, but it shocks the public conscience nonetheless.
On June 13, 2009, Rhonda Kay Stewart shot and killed her husband, Sammy, in the ICU of Charleston Area Medical Center's Memorial Hospital.
At her trial, Rhonda Stewart said it was an accident. She said she intended to kill herself in front of her husband, but that he had nudged her elbow and she accidentally shot him instead.
A jury of her peers rejected that claim and found her guilty of first-degree murder, but recommended mercy.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman took this into consideration and sentenced Stewart to life in prison, but with mercy, which meant she could be paroled after 15 years in prison.
She appealed to the state Supreme Court, contending that she suffered from battered women's syndrome - though the abuse had ended at some point.
The court, by a 3-2 margin, ordered a second trial so the defense could present evidence of longstanding domestic abuse.
Two of the justices balked.