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October 08, 1995|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE ABUSE EXCUSE: And Other Cop-Outs, Sob Stories, and Evasions of Responsibility by Alan M. Dershowitz (Back Bay Books: $12.95, 341 pp.). Most of the syndicated columns in this collection castigate lawyers and defendants who resort to pleas of ill-defined "syndromes" to escape punishment for criminal acts. Lorena Bobbitt and the Menendez brothers are just the most publicized examples of people who have hidden behind such dubious phenomena as premenstrual stress syndrome, Super Bowl Sunday syndrome, urban survival syndrome and UFO survivor syndrome. Dershowitz argues that these postures often function "as a vigilante defense that places the victim--who is usually dead and incapable of defending himself--on trial."

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