School of Law Professors Patricia Harrison and Brendan Roediger are featured in a documentary airing Tuesday, April 14 at 7 p.m. CST nationally on The World Channel and locally on PBS (KETC Channel 9). The film, “The Perfect Victim,” is centered on the Missouri Clemency Coalition’s work representing women who received life without parole sentences for killing their abusive husbands. The film chronicles the women’s fight to be released and their troubled journey through the courts and before the parole board.
All the women featured in the documentary are now out of prison. But the work to provide clemency for abused women continues.
“Although these women have been released, nothing has really changed in the criminal justice system,” said Harrison. “There are still so many more women who have suffered from abuse and were subsequently charged with a crime due to that abuse. Their circumstances weren’t taken into consideration or it didn’t seem to matter.”
To continue advocating for incarcerated women in Missouri, the SLU LAW Legal Clinics joined together with other members of the Missouri legal community to form the Community Coalition for Clemency, an extension of the original project that now includes the assistance of private attorneys. The coalition is currently calling on Governor Jay Nixon to commute the sentences of 14 women who are incarcerated in Missouri prisons. According to the Coalition, these women received sentences that were disproportionate to their crimes and in many cases more severe than those received by men convicted of similar crimes and harsher than what anyone would receive in similar circumstances today. Some of the women have spent more than 30 years in prison.
The cases featured in the film were also the subject of a spring 2012 symposium, “Battered Women Who Kill,” hosted by the law school. Elizabeth Rohrbaugh, the documentary’s director, was a panelist who discussed how the Coalition’s work moved her to cover the stories as a way to advocate for the women.
The film was screened as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival in 2013. It will air on PBS in St. Louis as part of The World Channel’s documentary series “America Reframed.” Check local listings for future airings throughout the week.
Here is a link to stream the documentary.