William C. Anderson from The Appeal. Excerpt below:
Jacqueline Dixon’s murder charge came despite the fact that she had requested an order of protection against her husband in 2016 for punching her in the face and verbally abusing her multiple times, and Dixon’s insistence that she acted in self-defense. In addition, Alabama’s “Stand Your Ground” statutesays that an individual is “justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or herself … from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person.”
But police and prosecutors rarely grant a Stand Your Ground and other justifiable homicide defenses to women, particularly Black women like Dixon, when they are defending themselves from abusers. In New Orleans, Catina Curley shot and killed her husband in 2005 after enduring physical abuse for over a decade. Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro nonetheless charged Curley with second-degree murder; she was convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison. (The Louisiana Supreme Court recently granted her a new trial.) More famously, in 2012, Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, Florida, was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison for merely firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. Alexander was freed in 2017 after advocates campaigned for her release. An energetic grassroots campaign led to the defeat of the prosecutor on her case, Angela Corey, who unsuccessfully prosecuted George Zimmerman, who invoked Stand Your Ground after killing Trayvon Martin in 2012. Now, groups like Survived and Punished are rallying around criminalized survivors with this demand: “Free Them All.”
The urgency of the growing national movement to support criminalized survivors stems in large part from the fact that nearly half of female homicide victims were related to intimate partner violence, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released last year. Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier has said, “Domestic violence is a crime that knows no racial, geographic or socioeconomic boundary.” But Black women are disproportionately represented among homicide victims in this category. Groups like Survived and Punished also point out that while there are seemingly limitless resources to prosecute and jail survivors, there are few when it comes to social services that might help them.
“It’s a tragic situation,” [Michael] Jackson, the district attorney, acknowledged in an interview with The Appeal. “You hate that it ended this way; unfortunately sometimes domestic violence rises to this where somebody ends up getting killed.” But Jackson said he is nonetheless presenting a murder charge to the grand jury because “somebody got killed.” Angela J. Davis, a professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law and an expert in criminal law and procedure, told The Appeal that even if Jackson “has the evidence to get that indictment, the question is whether it’s the fair and right thing to do under the circumstances.” Prosecutors have near total and unreviewable discretion and Davis says that in this case, in which the defendant is a domestic violence survivor, Jackson has the “discretion to pursue something less [than a murder charge] or even to forego charges altogether.”
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Image above: Jacqueline Dixon in a June 21, 2018 Facebook photo.