An Alaskan woman has been found not guilty on all counts for the murder of her husband -- even though she shot him five times in the back while he was sleeping. You'd think that Lisa Donlon would be spending the rest of her life in prison, but instead she gets to walk free and reunite with her three children. Why? Because Donlon claimed she was being abused by her husband, who had held her captive in a remote cabin for days, while allegedly raping and torturing her by hanging her from the ceiling and beating her, because he had found out she'd kissed another woman.
The prosecution argued that while Lisa had cuts and bruises, there was no evidence of torture. But the defense argued that Lisa had no choice but to kill him in self-defense because he was continually threatening to kill her and her children and was holding her against her will.
Says her defense attorney:
Anyone I think would have done what Lisa Donlon did to protect herself and to protect her children under those circumstances.
Lisa had something working in her favor: Reportedly four years before killing her husband, she'd taken out a restraining order and had doctors document her injuries. So there was a record of abuse. Also, her children testified that they witnessed her abuse.
Lisa wouldn't be the first woman to go free after killing an allegedly abusive husband (remember that Farrah Fawcett movie The Burning Bed?). And I think that a woman who truly fears for her life, and the life of her children, has a right to defend herself -- whether or not her husband is sleeping at the time. After all, she may not get that chance while he's alive.
However, Lisa got lucky. Plenty of battered women are in prison for killing their abusers. It's not an easy thing to prove. This case could have easily gone the wrong way for her. So it's definitely not something that abused women should rely on to get out of an abusive marriage.
Reportedly, Lisa and her husband, Jason, had reconciled after she filed her restraining order in 2006. Bad idea. This could have meant the end of her life and her children's. It could have also meant life in prison. Better to get out of an abusive relationship at the very first sign of trouble.
Do you think Lisa was justified?
Image via Stockmonkeys.com/Flickr