We first want to recognize the bravery and transparency with which these survivors have come to tell their stories. They recognize more than anyone else that the system is not set up to believe them or to hear their side of the story, we aim for our efforts to help begin the process of repair and justice.
The system of policing and prosecution is set up to intervene in the middle of a cycle of violence, and to determine which charges are the easiest for which to get a conviction. Often that cycle of violence included horrific acts against the survivor, and those acts usually go completely unpunished–many times for years. When the criminal justice system decides to take action against a survivor, their status as “victim” is erased and they become “defendant,” irrespective of the crimes perpetrated against them.
To question, blame, and nit pick the facts of these cases only serves to further isolate these survivors who are currently serving their sentences which stem from their victimization. Our hope in sharing these stories is to gather a community of direct support for these survivors.
Survivors deserve safety and freedom.
In sharing these stories we do not pretend that any of these survivors are perfect human beings. We resist the model of a “perfect victim” – the idea that only those survivors who fit into what we as a society view as the standard of victimhood are deserving of justice and a life without the violence of their partners, friends, and incarceration. There are no perfect survivors, there are human beings who deserve much more than Oklahoma’s legal system has provided them. We choose to fight for the freedom of these people, and we hope you’ll join us.
The stories below were sent to us after a criminalized survivor, April Wilkens, began an independent survey of the women inside Mabel Bassett Correctional Center. Each story is being shared with the explicit permission of the survivor who lived it.
In the mid 90s, April Wilkens was a single mom who owned her own business in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was a graduate of Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. She found herself in an abusive relationship that escalated every time she tried to leave. Her abuser, Terry Carlton, beat, raped, and stalked April until their relationship culminated in a fight for April's life on April 28, 1999. In the early morning hours, April was beaten, raped, and ultimately handcuffed in the basement of Terry's home. In the chaos of the events leading up to the shooting, April managed to get the gun Terry had threatened her with earlier in the evening and emptied the clip - while handcuffed - as Terry lunged at her, furious she had the gun. Terry succumbed to his injuries. April stayed at the scene and told the police everything that happened. She was tried and convicted of First Degree Murder and sentenced to LIFE in prison. Learn more about April's case and her fight for freedom at FreeAprilWilkens.com, and follow her advocacy on twitter, facebook, and instagram.
When she called for help, no one answered. And then she was sentenced to prison for LIFE when she tried to survive.
On November 3rd, 1981, Shari Lee McDonald was threatened by her abusive husband into helping him attempt a robbery on a Church’s Chicken. She and her husband went to Church’s Chicken before a doctor’s appointment for their two week old child. Her husband told Shari he had a job interview there. In the chaos, Shari’s husband assaulted two employees, one of which later died from injuries.
Shari was convicted of murder in the first degree and assault and battery with an intent to kill. She was sentenced to LIFE plus 20 years. Much later, Shari filed an Application for Post-Conviction Relief. Enclosed in this Application was a filed letter from Alan McDonald in 1982 stating that he wanted to testify for his wife, she had no intention to hurt anyone or knowledge of the robbery, he forced her participation, and she only held up the establishment but he did the rest of it. Alan also wrote that he had been physically abusive with Shari in the past when he should have sat down and talked. This is consistent with her testimony that she was forced to participate and she did not know the employees had been beaten until afterwards.
In July of 2020, Keabreauna Boyd was charged with Murder in the 1st Degree for the death of Luis Raynard Williams in Norman, OK. She and Williams, who was 30 years her senior, had an on and off again relationship for 8 years and he was often physically and emotionally abusive. Keabreauna would frequently call the police, but Williams would convince her not to file a protective order or seek charges against him.
In 2018, Williams was banned from her apartment complex after kicking in the door to the apartment she shared with her children. Keabreauna eventually moved with her children to Norman. By that time, she was pregnant with his child and wanted to try to keep the peace with him as her child's father.
On the night of the incident, Williams came to Keabreauna’s apartment in the middle of the night after he lost a significant amount of money at a casino. Williams began a fight with Keabreauna over money. Eventually she calmed him down and they went to sleep. Around 6 am the next morning, Williams again began fighting with her over money. Keabreauna tried to take her truck and leave. Williams took the keys from her and punched her in the face. According to Keabreauna, she went back into the house, got a knife, and slashed the tires of her own truck to keep Williams from stealing it.
Williams attacked Keabreauna in the driveway. In the struggle, he got the knife and cut her stomach. She was nearly 9 months pregnant with his child at the time. She continued to fight for her and her child's life, Keabreauna managed to get the knife back and swung at Williams striking him. She got away and ran inside to call 911, pleading for an ambulance.
Unfortunately, the blow to Williams' neck was fatal.
Keabreauna waived her right to jury trial and was instead tried only before a judge. She was found guilty of Second Degree Murder. Despite having no prior criminal history, Keabreauna Boyd was sentenced to LIFE with all but the first 20 years suspended.
She gave birth to Williams’ child in custody.
On March 15, 2013, Erica Lashon Harrison shot Calvin Lee Anderson outside of her apartment. Calvin was a previous family friend who raped and choked her on the day of the shooting. She called 911 for help, but help had not yet arrived. According to Erica she was standing outside waiting for police after she had called 911. She said the police cars passed by her, which left her standing with Calvin confronting her. Erica testified that when he came back a third time after she told him to stay away, that she shot him in self-defense. Erica was convicted of manslaughter in the 1st degree - heat of passion. She was originally sentenced to 25 years, but later resentenced to 20.
In partnership with I Have A Story and with full permission from the survivors we are sharing their stories in their own words.
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