Target: South Carolina Circuit Court Judge J. C. Nicholson, Jr.
Goal: Praise upholding of domestic abuse survivor’s right to defend herself against assault
After a particularly violent altercation with her boyfriend Eric Lee in November 2012, Whitlee Jones wanted to flee the house they shared in South Carolina. As she tried to leave, he began to attack her again, so she stabbed him once with a knife she had grabbed while gathering her belongings. Some friends had shown up to help and they drove her away, but she shortly asked them to turn back to check on Lee’s condition. Realizing that she had stabbed him in the heart, she insisted that they take Lee to the hospital, where he died. Jones had to receive medical treatment for her trauma, but she cooperated with police and explained that she was just trying to get away, not hurt or kill him. Her lawyer accordingly requested a stand your ground hearing to prevent her from being prosecuted for defending herself. Despite the prosecution’s bizarre claim that South Carolina’s law does not apply to disputes occurring inside citizens’ own homes.
Luckily for Jones, Circuit Court Judge J. C. Nicholson argued that she qualifies for immunity because she was acting in self-defense as a result of the immediate danger posed by Lee, who the judge noted was also guilty of kidnapping and domestic violence. Lee’s criminal activities, in the eyes of the law, meant that Jones had a right to use force to stop him. Judge Nicholson wrote in his decision, “To hold that a person cannot utilize [Stand Your Ground] if the person were inside of their own home could create a nonsensical result – that a person can defend themselves from attack by their spouses, lovers, or any other co-resident while outside their home, but not inside of their home.”
Jones truly was lucky in this case: domestic abuse survivors don’t often get the benefit of stand your ground laws, especially when they happen to be women of color, as in the infamous Marissa Alexander case. Sadly the prosecutor has decided to appeal the ruling based on the claim that a jury needs to decide whether the act was self-defense; however Judge Nicholson’s decision clearly states that the law allows for a judge to administer stand your ground immunity.
By signing this petition, you are thanking Judge Nicholson for defending Jones’s right to protect herself from domestic abuse.
Dear Judge Nicholson,
I am overjoyed with your recent decision in the case of Whitlee Jones, the domestic abuse survivor who had to use deadly force to defend herself from her boyfriend in their own home. Too often survivors of domestic violence are blamed for their situation or refused the right to self-defense inherent in stand your ground laws, as in the unfortunate case of Marissa Alexander in Florida. Arguments like the one used by the prosecution in this case try to pin the blame on victims for sharing their homes with people who end up being abusive, rather than blaming abusers for their violent behavior.
Thank you for upholding the right of Whitlee Jones and South Carolina survivors to self-defense against assault. Thank you for standing up against incoherent, uninformed, and thoughtless arguments that try to blame domestic violence survivors for their abusers’ actions and the consequences of abuse. I hope that Whitlee Jones and other women like her will not have to suffer any further victim-blaming or being dragged through the legal system as a result.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ben Pollard via Flickr