A woman in Alabama could face life in prison after losing her "Stand Your Ground" hearing in spite of testifying she shot a man in her home in January 2018 because he raped her and attacked her brother.
Brittany Smith was charged with first-degree murder after killing Todd Smith, her acquaintance, but sought immunity from prosecution citing Alabama's Stand Your Ground law. The state is one of 25 with laws that ostensibly permit the use of deadly force in the case of self-defense in the case of a burglary or the threat of violence.
Despite testimony from Brittany about the night of her alleged rape, the testimony of a rape crisis center nurse who examined Brittany, and photos of 33 wounds on her body, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Jenifer Holt rejected Brittany's claim that she had acted in self-defense.
"This case is so obviously, objectively outrageous that one's outrage implodes into a sort of numbness and disbelief. Women are not permitted to defend themselves; it is really that simple."
—Jessica Winter, The New YorkerBrittany's mother, Ramona McCallie, expressed disappointment but not surprise at the ruling in a Facebook post.
"We all know that the Stand Your Ground Law was not created for women," McCallie wrote.
In Brittany's hearing, she testified that Todd raped her when she allowed him to stay overnight at her home after he called her to say he was stranded nearby. Brittany's brother Chris McCallie found out later that night, arrived at the house to help Brittany, and was in a physical altercation with Todd when she fired the gun, killing Todd. Brittany said Todd was choking her brother and that she gave him a warning before shooting the gun.
The nurse who testified at the hearing said Brittany's 33 wounds were "consistent with having been bitten, strangled with two hands around her neck, and assaulted with 'a lot of force,'" according to The New Yorker.
Yet in her ruling, Holt determined Brittany "did not credibly demonstrate that she reasonably believed it was necessary for her to use deadly force in this situation."
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According to The New Yorker, one inconsistency was due to the fact that Brittany and her brother "originally told police that McCallie had shot Todd; both believed that a woman would not get a fair trial in Jackson County, a place where advocates say that women's complaints of violence are often ignored by police."
Brittany's lawyers plan to appeal the decision.
"She saw the pictures of me; he almost beat me to death, he did rape me, and he tried to kill my brother, so how can she say this?" Brittany told The New Yorker after Holt handed down the ruling Monday.
On social media, a number of observers echoed Brittany's mother's assessment.
"Because stand your ground laws don't protect women like Brittany Smith from men who rape them," tweeted attorney Rebecca Kavanagh. "They protect white men who kill black children, like George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin."
Because stand your ground laws don't protect women like Brittany Smith from men who rape them, like they didn't protect Marissa Alexander from her abusive husband. They protect White men who kill Black children, like George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.https://t.co/Vc9K26oUeZ
— Rebecca Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) February 4, 2020
There is a long history of women being prosecuted for defending themselves. Stand Your Ground is only for white men. Not for women, not for Black people. https://t.co/QbcMqBgxdJ
— I want a multiverse where Trump sells Herb-a-Life (@Cajsa) February 4, 2020
Brittany Smith defended herself against the man who brutally raped her, threatened to kill her, and attacked her brother when he attempted to help her. But she just lost her Stand Your Ground hearing, because self-defense is apparently only for men. https://t.co/RMhdFwxwLB
— Mary Anne Franks (@ma_franks) February 4, 2020
"This case is so obviously, objectively outrageous that one's outrage implodes into a sort of numbness and disbelief," wrote Jessica Winter, executive editor of NewYorker.com. "Women are not permitted to defend themselves; it is really that simple."