Woman Jailed for Killing Abusive Husband Wins Rare Pardon
French president shortens sentence of woman who killed violent spouse
By Jenn Gidman, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2016 2:01 PM CST
Advocates for victims of domestic abuse are celebrating Hollande's actions.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Thanks to French President Francois Hollande, Jacqueline Sauvage will be leaving a French prison in April after serving three and a half years of a 10-year sentence for killing her husband, the Guardian reports. Sauvage—who said Norbert Marot, her husband of 47 years, was an alcoholic who raped and beat her and her three daughters and abused her son—shot Marot in the back with a rifle the day after her son hanged himself in September 2012. But Hollande, recognizing the circumstances behind the killing, made the rare move of waiving the remainder of Sauvage's five-year minimum sentence so she could apply for release in April (meaning, as the Independent notes, it's not technically a full pardon). "In the face of an exceptional human situation, the president wanted to make it possible for … Sauvage to return to her family as soon as possible," Hollande's office said in a statement.

Although what Sauvage did may have been defensible after so many years of abuse, French law presents a trickier situation: An act such as Marot's killing can only be labeled self-defense if it's a direct response to, and proportional to, the original act of aggression. Sauvage was sentenced to 10 years in prison in October 2014, and that judgment was upheld on appeal this past December, with the state prosecutor arguing that her firing three shots into Marot's back was inadmissible, the BBC notes. But the public rallied to her defense, with more than 400,000 people asking Hollande to get involved, and he did—just two days after meeting with Sauvage's three grown daughters—despite what the BBC labels his "qualms" at using the presidential pardon (he's only used it once before). "I'm overwhelmed, happy, grateful, relieved," the founder of an advocacy group for Sauvage tells the Guardian. (A Florida judge had no such sympathy for a battered woman in her courtroom.)