Janet Prater to deliver April 2 Honors Council lecture

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Janet Prater, assistant professor of criminal justice at Bemidji State University, will present an Honors Council Lecture entitled “The Jeanette Smith Case: Defending Battered Women at Trial” on Wednesday, April 2. The lecture, which is free to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. in Hagg-Sauer 112 on the BSU campus.

In 1979, Jeanette Smith was charged with murder in the stabbing death of her estranged husband, H.I. Smith. The case was groundbreaking, as at the time most women who killed abusive partners employed the insanity plea in their defense. In this case, however, Prater, along with civil rights lawyer Dean Robb, decided to purse a defense of self-defense following significant behind-the-scenes assistance from judges, attorneys from the prosecution and defense bar, police officers and mental health practitioners.

Prater will discuss the classic case that helped lay the groundwork for her professional specialization in the area of domestic violence. She will discuss the right to kill in self defense, which is based on the necessity of killing an unlawful aggressor to save oneself or another from imminent death or great bodily harm.

Finally, there will be time to discuss how changes in the criminal justice response to domestic violence and a coordinated community response continues to make a difference in the lives of the victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

Prater is in her second year in the Department of Criminal Justice at Bemidji State. She teaches courses on domestic violence, civil law, criminal law, the judicial process, criminal justice diversity and offender intervention.

She received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Michigan in 1972, and later completed legal studies and earned a Juris Doctorate at Wayne State University. Recently, she earned a master’s degree in counseling education from Wayne State University. She has taught law and law-related courses at the graduate, undergraduate and law school levels since the early 1990s. A practicing attorney since 1976, Prater has practiced at all levels of both the civil and criminal court systems throughout Michigan. She is a member of the Michigan Bar Association and has served on numerous state-level committees, including the Special Committee on Domestic Violence.

Prater’s special interest is the broad area of domestic violence. She has represented numerous clients who have been accused of fighting back against or killing abusive partners or family members, typically pursuing a defense of self defense. Prater is dedicated to educating people about domestic violence so that society may effectively respond to the problem.

2008 Honors Lecture Series

  • April 2: “The Jeanette Smith Case: Defending Battered Women at Trial; ” Janet Prater; Hagg-Sauer 112; 7:00 p.m.
  • April 15: “Where Do Poems Come From?” Susan Hauser & Maureen Gibbon; Hagg-Sauer 112; 7:00 p.m.
  • April 24: “The Mental Maps and Mindscapes of the American Midwest;” Mike Garrett; Hagg-Sauer 112; 7:00 p.m.

April 2
– 7:00 p.m. – Bemidji State University Honors Lecture: Janet Prater, “The Jeanette Smith Case: Defending Battered Women at Trial” Location: Hagg-Sauer 112, BSU. Admission: free.