On Nov. 21, 2011, Geneva Dixon of Oakland, Calif., stabbed her ex-boyfriend and child's father, Norris Lewis, to death with a knife. Following the incident, Dixon was arrested and charged with murder. She has been in custody since her arrest. However, a judge recently dismissed the murder charge against Dixon after an investigation revealed that Dixon acted in self-defense.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, investigators believe Lewis went to Dixon's apartment on the 3500 block of Galindo Street after Dixon told Lewis she wanted to end their relationship, which involved a history of domestic violence.
District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said, "During the encounter, Mr. Lewis strangled Ms. Dixon twice. Breaking free from his choking, Ms. Dixon got a steak knife from the kitchen and ordered Mr. Lewis to leave. He attacked her again and she stabbed him once in the chest, in self-defense."
In court, Deputy Public Defender Jane Brown read a statement from Dixon, in which her client claimed that she acted, "not out of spite or hatred." The statement also indicated that Dixon had loved Lewis since she was 14 and that she still loved him and his family unconditionally.
This case brings to light some important legal considerations pertaining to self-defense. At first, the idea of stabbing an unarmed assailant in the chest may seem a bit extreme. In many cases, employing a weapon against an unarmed assailant would not be justified. However, when you consider the history of domestic violence and the fact that Lewis had reportedly just strangled Dixon twice, her decision to arm herself seems more appropriate (Strangling is a serious attack that could result in unconscious or even death). The fact that while armed with the knife, Dixon told Lewis to leave and Lewis attacked her again is also indicative of Dixon acting in self-defense as opposed to committing murder.
The article does not indicate whether Lewis was bigger and stronger than Dixon, but if he were, this "disparity of force" could make it reasonable for Dixon to arm herself because she was incapable of defending herself empty-handed. The same concept could authorize you to use a higher degree of force when faced with more than one assailant, an armed assailant or when you're tasked with protecting a third party, such as a spouse or a child. Other factors that may be considered when determining the "reasonableness" of your actions might be when you're ability to defend yourself is diminished due to injury or fatigue, or even when an assailant has the high ground, such as on a stairwell, where a shove could send you tumbling.
If Dixon and Lewis were similar in size and strength or if Lewis had only grabbed Dixon by the arm or shoved her rather than strangled her, there's a good chance Dixon would remain behind bars and ultimately be convicted of murder.
What are your thoughts?