“Behind Prison Walls” written by Nancy Seaman – April 2017

My name is Nancy Seaman and for 31-years of marriage I lived in the shadows as a battered woman with the shame of abuse as my closely guarded secret.  My husband was a good man with many admirable qualities, but there was this dark side to his personality, fueled by a smoldering rage just below the surface that he fought hard, but unsuccessfully, to contain.  As long as the good times outweighed the bad, I could always justify staying in the marriage, but in those final years, the abuse escalated to the point that I had no choice but to make the difficult decision to leave the marriage and save myself.  So, I secretly purchased a condo and began moving my possessions from our home, unaware that the most dangerous time for a battered woman is when she finally makes the decision to leave an abusive relationship.

On that tragic morning of May 10, 2004, alcohol and amphetamines fueled my husband’s rage when he confronted me about my plans to leave and the resulting verbal altercation turned violent.  I defended myself – with unintended and deadly consequences and I lost the love of my life forever.

I survived that final assault only to be battered one final time – this time by the criminal justice system.  Imagine being put on trial for the homicide of your spouse only to discover that because of Michigan’s limitations on expert witness testimony the jury will never hear the evidence that could prove that as a battered woman your perception of imminent danger was reasonable and you acted in lawful self-defense.

Without this evidence, I could not defend against the charges brought against me.  The prosecution face no similar restrictions.  Throughout my trial, the prosecutor used every myth, misconception, and stereotype about battered women to discredit my claims of abuse, trivialize my injuries which the prosecution expert had already testified were “defensive injuries”, mock my religious convictions and reasons for staying in the marriage, and to unfairly assert that because I was an educated woman with a career and the means, resources, and opportunities to leave the marriage that I could not possibly be a “battered woman”.

Michigan law prohibited my expert from refuting the prosecutor’s claims.

Not all battered women or their abusers fit society’s stereotypes.  It’s an inconvenient truth for society to acknowledge that a batterer could possibly be a charismatic, successful businessman and community leader who lavishly provides for his wife and family, resides in a neighborhood not unlike your own, and victimizes a woman not very much different from yourself.  To accept this profile of a batterer and his victim brings the issue of domestic abuse uncomfortably close to home.  If such a thing could happen to someone whose lifestyle so closely resembles your own, then it could possibly happen to you and that vulnerability is far too uncomfortable to accept.  So, friends and family don’t ask any questions and the battered woman doesn’t tell which allows the batterer to hid behind a cloak of respectability and batter his victim with impunity.

As my husband would frequently remind me, “Look at everything you have, you no-good ungrateful bitch.  No one will believe you and no one will feel sorry for you.”

The outcome of my trial proved he was right.

We are a nation of compassion and empathy for marginalized groups in our society.  Battered women are one such group, but where is society’s compassion for those women who have been sentenced to life in prison for defending themselves against their abusers?

How can society turn a blind eye when a state like Michigan puts a battered woman on trial, but then denies her the expert testimony which could prove her innocence?

Where is the outrage when this same state unreasonably restricts its self-defense law to diminish a battered woman’s ability to claim self-defense simply because she has a relationship with her attacker, shares a child in common, or resides in the same household?

Women are not battered by strangers; they are battered by men with whom they have a relationship.

Winning a criminal appeal does not ensure freedom.  The verdict in my case has been overturned twice on appeal with three judges ruling that the evidence does not support the verdict and omitted evidence denied me a fair trial.  By now I would have been returned home, yet I remain imprisoned because the prosecutor has fought to reverse these rulings and preserve a verdict known to be unjust.

With domestic violence so prevalent in our society, the injustice in my case could easily become the fate of someone close to you.  Battered women are not strangers; they are your family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who live that abuse and suffer in silence.

All that it takes for injustice to prevail is for good men and women to do nothing.  Please be the voice for those battered women who have long cried out in vain.  Only a grant of commutation from the Governor will now spare women like me from death in prison.  I pray you will not look away and allow good women to be condemned for their worst act committed on the worst day of their lives, but will instead decide that we are capable of redemption and worthy of a second chance.

Please contact the Michigan Parole Board and Governor’s office and advocate on my behalf for a grant of commutation to spare my life from behind these prison walls.

Very truly yours,

Nancy Seaman #520695
Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility – 3201 Bemis Road – 2B104 – Ypsilanti, MI  48197
Governor Rick Snyder – PO Box 30013 – Lansing, MI  48909

8 thoughts on ““Behind Prison Walls” written by Nancy Seaman – April 2017

  1. Your story has brought tears to my eyes as I understand your home situation; and it brings my past to the surface again. I, too, was in the same sort of place, and stayed for 23 years. The question of, “Why did you stay so long?” is one that I frequently ask myself. I still haven’t found the answer to that question. I have many “excuses” & “theories”, but no answer. Fortunately, my story has a much better outcome than yours; but could have ended up in the same situation. Again, the question of “why” surfaces. I, too, like you, had been hatching a plan that was years in the making. It didn’t have a grand outcome, but got out.

    I will be relating my story to the Governor; and maybe it will give him a bit more clarity into a world of silent agony, while putting on a face of public pride. Women like us deserve an Oscar for keeping smiles on our faces in social situations, while dealing with these narcissistic personalities. I will keep you in my thoughts!

    1. Thank you for sharing, Laura. I will email your words of support to Nancy. I know how much it means to her. You do deserve an Oscar!

  2. Laura, you and every other woman who has a story to tell, should contact the Governor. I know he is interested in prison reform, and if enough people contact him, more positive changes can be made. It would be wonderful to find one legislator who would really take this cause up. The 1995 court rule which limits expert witness testimony would be one good thing the legislature could change. Nancy would love to hear from you, so please write her. I’m so happy you were able to leave your abuser and are living a free and healthy life today. God Bless You!!

  3. The odd thing is that women get equal punishment for crimes and paying child support, but little else in equal treatment. I had hoped that in my life time things would change, but it is changing too slowly!

  4. Every time I read Nancy Seaman’s letter, I wish everyone in Michigan would read it….citizens, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, journalists–everyone. It is a heart breaking story, because I don’t know how things will ever change. What will it take to get rid of the Court Rule which limits expert witness testimony? It will take the Michigan Supreme Court to realize how damaging it is to getting at the truth of “the whole story.” It will take a courageous legislator or powerful organization to bring this unfair situation to light, so that changes can be made. I go on living my daily life thinking of women in prison who should not be there. I look at my own life with the simple everyday activities undertaken freely each day, and then I think of Nancy, unable to live the ordinary, fulfilling life she once lived. They are excruciating thoughts. We take so much for granted, and there are far too few heroes in life with the wherewithal to tackle injustice. I keep on believing in miracles, because I know they happen…and where Nancy, and others like her, are concerned, a miracle is what they need.

  5. Nancy Seaman has been a good friend to me for more than 20 years! I stay in contact with her at least once a month. We share letters, and I send crossword puzzles and other articles to her, Crosswords are her favorite! I have written to the Governor and the Parole Board on her behalf. Previously I wrote to judges on her behalf. Nancy is a wonderful, caring person! It has been too long for her to be kept in this facility for the convicted crime.. Nancy is definitely one that deserves to live her life outside of prison walls. She has much to give back to society. My prayers and thoughts are with her daily!!!

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