For my final essay I am interested in investigating Aileen Wuornos’ murders and trial. In doing so I want to take a look at the social injustice surrounding women’s self-defense and how this lack of women’s perception in the legal system contributed to Wuornos’ destructive path to murder and to her unfair execution. Generally speaking, self-defense is often understood as a home invasion or a fight between two men. It is not often thought of in the context of marriage, the private sphere or the home and in Wuornos’ case, it is not thought of from the standpoint of prostitution. Further, the majority of women who kill their boyfriends or husbands in self defense are sentenced to life in prison. If women who kill in self-defense are not trialed fairly, then Wuornos’ occupation as a prostitute, which is illegal and looked down upon, would make it even more arduous to prove that she killed in self-defense. This is what ultimately happened when her self-defense claims were not even considered by the courts.
I want to analyze how Wournos’ marginalized position as poor, a woman, a lesbian and a prostitute contributed to her unfair trial and sentencing. When her defenders found evidence that one of her victims was a rapist (Richard Mallory), it was ignored in the Aileen C. Wuornos V. State of Florida case. If this was not ignored, she may have never been executed. Further, if the legal system considered self-defense from a woman or prostitute’s perspective, then Wuornos may have been able to tell the authorities when she killed Mallory and it may have stopped the proceeding chain of events from occurring.
In the essay I also want to consider other factors that contributed to her unfair trial. In doing so, I want to take a look at Aileen Wuornos’ past, which includes rape, drug abuse, physical abuse and abandonment, to factor in her mental disorders and how these were also ignored in her trial. Alongside her past, I also want to analyze the sexist and homophobic mainstream perception of her. Labeled “Hooker from Hell” and “Damsel of Death”, she was positioned as evil within the sexist angel/evil dichotomy given to women. This relates to how dominate culture views women in prison. They are dehumanized and perceived as completely evil or insane. Being that Wuornos was a prostitute and a lesbian, she was considered even more evil, which greatly influenced the jury and court to sentence her to death and why she ultimately gave up and wanted to be executed.