It’s harder for Black women to be understood as victims

By Marcus Henderson

Black women are more likely to be criminalized for defending themselves, according to a Rewire story.

“It’s really hard for people to accept Black women as victimized,” said Lenina Trinidad, an attorney who has represented abuse survivors, in an interview with Rewire. “In my experience in the criminal court system, Black women are inherently questioned and inherently distrusted. The system and the players don’t find them as credible.”

Nearly half of women in state prisons and local jails had been abused before their arrest, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report released in 1999.

Black women are up to four times more likely to be imprisoned than White women. The most recent statistics on imprisonment seem to back Trinidad’s observations, according to the article.

There is no readily available conviction rate of Black women claiming self-defense and there is little data on the number of domestic violence-related convictions, the article noted.

The story cites the case of Cherelle Baldwin, a 24-year-old Black woman found not guilty in the death of an abusive ex-boyfriend. She was freed only after serving close to three years in prison, according to the April Rewire article by Victoria Law.

Baldwin had been granted a court order against her ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey Brown. But Brown continued to text threats, the story noted. He then showed up at Baldwin’s house and climbed through a window where he pulled a knife and choked her with his belt, according to a police affidavit quoted in the article.

Baldwin escaped by running outside into her car. Brown managed to get in the car and proceed to choke her again, noted the story. She got out the car, and the car ran over her leg. He continued to chase her, but the rest happened so fast she did not remember how he ended up in front of the car, the article reported.

When police arrived, Brown was dead, and Baldwin had a broken leg. Their baby was in the house, unharmed. She was taken to the hospital. Three weeks later, she was charged with first-degree murder and her bail was set at $1 million. She was sent to York Correctional Institution in Niantic, the women’s state prison in Connecticut.

“It’s really hard for people to accept Black women as victimized”

Another case the author refers to was about Marissa Alexander, a Florida mother who argued she had been acting in self-defense under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, by firing a warning shot into the ceiling to stop her husband’s assault. She was unsuccessful and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Her conviction coincided with the arrest of George Zimmerman, who successfully claimed “Stand Your Ground” in his shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

In January 2015, after wider attention and support for Alexander, an appeals court ruled that the judge’s instructions on self-defense were faulty and reversed her conviction. Nearly four-and-a-half years after her arrest, Alexander agreed to a plea bargain for time served and two years of house arrest.


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