Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Daniel Remeta: On the Road to Destruction

'Poor Judgment'

Lisa Dunn's appeals to the Kansas judicial system were less successful, and her convictions withstood all of her challenges at the state level. To the appellate judges in Kansas, the fact that Dunn had ample opportunity during the spree to leave Remeta, and that his threats were not continuous, indicated that she was not — like Hunter — compelled to commit the crimes.

The court held Dunn's own words against her.

"He still did treat me nice at times, but he'd always make sure that threat was known to me, that he'd be nice — you know, he could be nice to me if I was behaving," she testified. "But if I didn't behave, you know, he wasn't going to be because, you know, like if I'd smart-mouth him real bad or something, I might get a slap or whatever he felt like at the time.  It depends on his mood.  He's real moody."

The high court also rejected Dunn's arguments that had she been able to bring in an expert to talk about the hostage syndrome, the outcome of the trial might have been different. Successfully presenting a hostage syndrome defense requires that the defendant demonstrate the necessary elements, including prolonged captivity, isolation of and a lack of privacy for  the captive, and, most importantly, a breakdown of the captive's personality and establishment of a new psyche in its place.

In a strongly worded rejection of Dunn's argument, the court held that "the facts do not support Dunn's claim that she was a captive. She was not kidnapped; she went with Remeta voluntarily after stealing a gun for him.  She was not guarded round-the-clock. In fact, there were many times when she was alone, or awake while Remeta was asleep. She was not isolated, but stayed with friends in Florida, went to Disney World, and stayed in a number of motels and hotels during the crime spree.  She was not subject to brainwashing.    It is apparent that Dunn's romantic attachment to Remeta was voluntary.  If she was a victim, she was a victim of her own poor judgment."

But in a stunning turn of events, in 1991, a federal district court judge overturned Dunn's conviction and ordered a new trial. Because she was charged with aiding and abetting Daniel Remeta, her mental state was a key component to her defense, the court ruled, and the trial court erred by not providing Dunn with an expert witness. The State of Kansas quickly appealed to the 10th  Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower federal court ruling. The 10th  Circuit's ruling on compulsion and the "battered-woman defense" significantly reshaped how courts look at battered women who commit crimes.

The Dunn decision "extends the use of the battered woman syndrome beyond situations in which a defendant uses testimony about the syndrome to justify her actions and relieve her of culpability," wrote Kimberly Kuhn in the Toledo Law Review.  "(Now a) defendant may use testimony on the battered woman syndrome to prove her innocence when charged with a specific intent crime."

In 1992, Lisa Dunn went on trial a second time. Like James Hunter, this time Dunn was able to present a formidable defense of compulsion, complete with expert testimony about why a battered woman with ample opportunity to flee a hostile environment "chooses" to stay with her batterer. Like Hunter, this time Lisa Dunn was acquitted of all charges.

"We're quite disappointed, and somewhat surprised about it," said Kansas Assistant Attorney General John Bork, who prosecuted Dunn the second time. "I never felt the defendant in this case was ever a victim."

Dunn remained behind bars, facing an Arkansas capital murder charge in Linda Marvin's killing. In December 1993, she pleaded guilty to one count of hindering apprehension or prosecution and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, receiving credit for the time she served in Kansas. By plea agreement, the rest of the sentence was suspended.

She returned home to Traverse City and took a job at a center for abused women. Dunn later got work in a psychologist's office. Still emotionally troubled, alcohol and gambling problems followed her.  In 1996, she stole more than $8,000 from her employer. In an eerie repeat of earlier events, Dunn and her boyfriend fled to Florida. This time she willingly returned to face prosecution, announcing that they had married and she was pregnant. In 1998, she pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement. Noting that she was undergoing treatment for her addictions and had paid back the money in full, the judge sentenced her to a year in jail and placed her on probation for five years.

The state of Arkansas did not ask for her return.


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