By: Krystle Crossman
When Charelle Baldwin was 21 years old she was put in prison with a $1 million bail. Three years later she is finally free. She was facing 25 to 60 years in prison for the murder of her ex, Jefferey Brown. Baldwin states that she didn’t mean to kill him and that she was just trying to get away from him. Brown had beaten her multiple times and the morning of his death had sent death threats to Baldwin. She claimed that he had broken into her home that night and beaten her with his belt. She said he then tried to strangle her with the belt in front of her 19-month-old son. She broke free and ran to the car with no shoes, in her pajamas, leaving the baby crying on the bed. She just wanted to get away, she stated.
Once inside the car Baldwin claims that Brown entered the vehicle and began to assault her. He then got out of the car to come around to her side to continue the beating but she stepped on the gas. Brown was hit with the car and then pinned to a wall, effectively killing him. The jurors were deliberating on what she should be charged with. They were told that if they could not come to a unanimous decision on murder charges they should consider lesser charges such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. After two days of deliberations Baldwin was found not guilty of murder as the jury decided that she acted in self-defense. In her home state of Connecticut the self-defense law claims that the person who killed their attacker must have felt that serious bodily injury or death was imminent if they did not stop the threat for good.
There were 38 different domestic violence groups who are calling for the acquittal of Baldwin. They state that this is why so many black people, especially women, feel afraid to defend themselves when they are in an abusive relationship. University of Illinois of Chicago criminal justice professor Beth Richie says that all too often black women are punished when they have taken every other step to escape and finally end up killing their abuser. Richie states that racism and stereotypes such as the “angry black woman” stereotype lead to harsher punishments for women who have suffered abuse and then taken matters into their own hands. There was a petition circling for Baldwin’s freedom at one point that had collected over 32,000 signatures. When the “not guilty” verdict was read in court Baldwin dropped to her knees and sobbed with relief.