Queens Lawyer Defends Battered Female Killers

New York Daily News / Getty Images

UNITED STATES - APRIL 29: Michael Dowd, right, attorney, with his client Barbara Sheehan, speaking of her relationship with her late husband Raymond Sheehan, a retired cop, whom she fatally shot. Photo taken at Mr. Dowd's office at 112 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York on April 29, 2008.

New York lawyer Michael G. Dowd has defended so many murderers who were battered by their husbands that he’s been nicknamed the “black-widow lawyer.” His clients have killed their husbands with carving knives, machetes, and semiautomatic handguns. Dowd first became famous for a sensational 1978 case in which he defended a woman who had stabbed her husband after he raped her at knifepoint in front of their children—a case that drew national attention to the moral dilemma of women who kill their attackers. Only one of Dowd’s clients has served prison time; the others have been exonerated or seen their sentences reduced. “It is very emotionally difficult to take such cases; they really get to me,” he said.