Free Criminalized Domestic Violence Survivor Latoya Dickens

Free Criminalized Domestic Violence Survivor Latoya Dickens

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Igniting Hope started this petition to District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson

[Content warning: graphic descriptions of violence and abuse]

Latoya Dickens suffered 14 years of documented abuse at the hands of her husband. She has now spent more than 20 years in prison for taking his life in response to one of his outbursts. Latoya met her husband when she was only 13 years old and he was 17. Over the course of their relationship, he raped her when she did not want to have sex during her pregnancies and frequently hit her with enough force to leave her with bruised lips and black eyes. Once, he threw her off a porch when she was eight months pregnant and then continued to hit her in the face with his fists. He frequently demeaned and insulted Latoya, and he controlled her by preventing her from talking to other people or going places by herself. In 1999, after years of abuse that were so harmful to Latoya she even considered suicide, Latoya responded to one of her husband’s outbursts and stabbed him with a knife as they struggled. She was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and sentenced to life in prison for felony murder. Though Latoya is currently eligible for parole, she has yet to be reunited with her family in the free world, including her three daughters and eleven grandchildren.

On the night of the incident, Latoya’s husband was upset with her because she drove a friend to work who he did not want her to associate with. He began to verbally abuse her (name calling, swearing). Fearing another violent outburst and attempting to avoid conflict, Latoya left the house for an hour and a half. Her husband continued to verbally abuse her when she returned, calling her a "stupid bitch," and a physical struggle took place that ended with Latoya stabbing him with a kitchen knife. He died multiple days later in the hospital. Latoya's statements to the police—that she was "tired of it" and desperately wanted a "normal life"—were mischaracterized by the press but are understandable in light of the years of abuse she endured. 

Latoya’s legal battle was then marked by a series of injustices and errors. During the three years she was held at Gwinnett County Jail, she only met with her attorneys twice. She was only able to meet with an expert on Battered Woman’s Syndrome after she insisted on it, and she met with the expert just once. The expert did not even testify at her trial. At the trial, Latoya’s attorney was unable to secure witness testimony from a woman who could attest to Latoya’s husband’s abuse against herself and other women she knew in Louisiana (where Latoya’s husband had previously lived). The trial judge also acted improperly, behaving as a prosecutor—he prevented one witness from giving testimony by declaring it was hearsay before anyone had even objected. 

Igniting Hope, a grassroots coalition of Georgia community members seeking to liberate criminalized survivors of gender-based violence, calls on District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson to vacate Latoya’s conviction, resentence her to a sentence length she has already served, and initiate court proceedings to get her out of prison. Sign this petition to tell DA Austin-Gatson to #BringLatoyaHome.

Please note: if you choose to sign, change.org provides an opportunity for you to 'chip in' money. This money goes to promote the petition on change.org so that it reaches more people, not to Latoya. You can find more petitions at https://www.change.org/o/igniting_hope 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!