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No 'Stand Your Ground' for Black Women?

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on August 27, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Domestic violence knows no racial boundaries. Evidently "stand your ground" laws do.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nearly half of all female homicide victims are related to intimate partner violence. Take that staggering statistic, and place it in a stand your ground jurisdiction, and you would think that a large majority of women that are attacked in a domestic violence situation would not be prosecuted for shooting their assailant. If you think that, you're dead wrong.

The Criminalization of Domestic Violence Victims

In Selma Alabama, Jacqueline Dixon fatally shot her estranged husband in the front yard of her home with a small caliber handgun. She claims she did so in self-defense, as he was aggressively charging at her in their front yard. Such a claim shouldn't come as a surprise to the police, after she requested a protective order against her husband for repeatedly punching her in the face and verbally abusing her in 2016.

Instead of charging him with domestic violence, they've charged her with murder. And now her children are without a father, and their mother is in jail awaiting word from the grand jury on the fate of her future.

Black Women Historically Unsuccessful Using "Stand Your Ground"

Stand your ground laws exist in a majority of states, which means that a person is allowed to use deadly force to defend themselves if they reasonably believe an aggressor is coming at them with deadly force, with no duty to retreat.

In Alabama, the law is also a Castle Doctrine, which means that you are allowed to firmly and quickly "stand your ground" if the attack is happening in your own home. However, it is apparently rare for black women to be able to successfully use this defense in domestic violence situations. Catina Curley was sentenced to life for fatally shooting her husband during another domestic violence situation, after sustaining decades of abuse from him. Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot, after her husband came at her ... again. She was freed after many people and organizations advocated for her release.

But the question remains, why should vital resources need to be used to defend an obviously legal position?

Is Stand Your Ground Only for Whites and Strangers?

Is stand your ground only for whites? No, but the question isn't unwarranted considering some statistics. According to The Urban Institute, in "stand your ground" states:

  • 34% of the homicides when white shooters kill blacks are deemed justifiable.
  • 3% of the homicides when black shooters kill whites are deemed justifiable.
  • When black shooters kill black people, those shootings are less likely to be deemed justifiable than those involving white shooters who kill white people.

Is stand your ground only for non-domestic partners? Surprisingly, maybe in certain states. As recently as 2016, eight states (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee) require victims of domestic violence to "retreat to the wall" before responding with deadly force, even though retreating wouldn't be necessary if the assailant were not a domestic partner.

Couple those statistics with the unpredictability of being able to use the Castle Doctrine in domestic violence situation, and one can see where a black woman may never feel safe using her stand your ground protection.

If you or your loved one has been a victim of domestic violence, contact a local domestic violence attorney, who can review the specifics of your case and get you the help, and safety, you deserve.

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