LeToya Ramseure shouldn’t have spent a day in jail.
But after fatally shooting her abusive ex-boyfriend in self-defense in 2018, she wound up facing criminal charges. Unable to post bail and with no money for an attorney, she spent three long weeks locked up.
At first, her prospects didn’t look good.
“This just bothers me so, because it’s so many women out here dying at the hands of their abusers ... but then when a woman survives, she is treated like a criminal,” Rashena Carter, Ramseure’s mother, wrote me in a text message.
“There is a large percentage of women out here arrested facing charges for fighting back,” she added. “I personally feel as if something needs to be changed.”
She’s right. Authorities need to do a much better job of taking into account the circumstances surrounding domestic-abuse survivors when charging them in such instances. Many were fighting for their lives.
Luckily for Ramseure, she got the break of a lifetime when defense attorney Michael Coard agreed to represent her pro bono.
Coard is something of a rock star in criminal defense circuits. And Ramseure is just the kind of poor, disenfranchised defendant that he specializes in defending. He says his goal is to make sure his clients can get treated “exactly like rich white men are treated in court.”
Coard is a crusader who calls himself “the Angriest Black Man in America.” I’ve followed his career for years, listening to his radio show on WURD 900 AM and reading his column in the Philadelphia Tribune.
I wish I’d been in the courtroom to watch during Ramseure’s trial as Coard asked the jury, “Why are we even here?” He presented a convincing case that Ramseure was the victim — not her abusive ex-boyfriend, Devon Roye.
I was happy to read last month she had been acquitted of all charges.
“I am happy that they found me not guilty, but I’m still not happy over the situation,” Ramseure told me recently. “I feel like I never should have been locked up.”
“It ruined my life for over a whole year,” she added. “All because [officials] didn’t look into my background” as a victim of domestic violence.
Studies show that roughly 77% of female criminal defendants are also abuse victims. Take the case of Cyntoia Brown. She made national headlines last summer after she was released 15 years into a life sentence for killing a john who picked her up when she a teenage sex-traffic victim.
Ramseure was just 13 when she began dating Roye, then 19. Theirs had been a volatile relationship in which things came to a head in July 2018 after an argument over money. She texted him afterward, saying she was done, and threatened to “throw his gun in the sewer and his stuff in the trash,” she told me.
He texted back that if she touched his belongings, "I guarantee your daughter will be missing two parents, because I’m going to jail and I’m going to put you in the grave.” Minutes later, Roye burst into her house in Frankford, ignoring the active protection‐from‐abuse order she had in place.
“He started punching me in my face. I fell down and got into a ball,” Ramseure told me. “The next thing I know, I hear my mom. She’s like, ‘Devon get up. Get off of her.’ ”
With Roye’s attention diverted, Ramseure went to retrieve his things. She said she was about to hand over his gun when she stopped herself and instead fired it.
Now that the legal ramifications from that are behind her, Ramseure wants to find a new place to live and a job. Her life was on hold as she fought the charges — charges she never should have faced in the first place.