Why was Jema from I Am a Killer found guilty?

In ‘I Am a Killer’, Jema Donahue pleaded not guilty to voluntary manslaughter, but the jury found her guilty. She is now serving her sentence at the Missouri Department of Corrections.

The latest season of ‘I Am a Killer’ made the viewers sympathize with Jema Donahue’s life story. Since the release of the docuseries, people have even started petitions online, demanding Jema’s freedom.

The woman has been in prison for killing her husband. Her story made the viewers question whether justice was truly served and who is the real victim in this story. 

Jema’s childhood

Jema became a survivor of sexual assault at the age of 13. She was assaulted by an older man. She did not wish to press charges, but her mother made the decision for her and reported the case to the police.

When the police could not find him, her mother took matters into her own hand and located him, ensuring that he received the punishment he deserved. This affected Jema’s relationship with her mother; Jema blamed her mother throughout her teen years.

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Jema was bullied and had to leave the school district when the case details became public knowledge. Her mother was overprotective to the point where Jema was not even allowed to have friends.

Jema had her first child when she was still in school. Three years later, she gave birth to a daughter.

A long history of abuse

Jema met Javon when she was in college. He had just been released from prison. They began dating, and initially, he was a supportive partner, which gained Jema’s trust.

When the police arrived at their shared residence for the first time due to Javon’s involvement in drug-related activities, Jema realized she does not know what he has been doing at her house.

She asked him to leave, and that was the first time he abused her. The abuse became persistent; it was physical and mental. It continued even when they got married and moved to Pennsylvania.

I Am a Killer Jema
Jema agreed to marry Javon in 2011

In 2017, when the abuse got too much, Jema moved back to her family house, and her mother helped her get a temporary restraining order against Javon.

One day, when she was alone at home, he broke into the house. He abused her again and held a gun to her. To defend herself, Jema fought him and fired the gun, which resulted in his death.

Why was Jema found guilty of manslaughter?

Jema’s mother arrived home, and she found her on the phone with the emergency services. Jema handed the phone to her mother and asked her to say that she accidentally dialed the number.

When the police did not show up at their house, Jema’s mother and her friend, Ricky Wayne Armstrong, buried the body at a farm. Ricky dug up three sites and did not tell Jema’s mother where the body was buried.

Jema and her mother did not report Javon’s death. It was when the police got an anonymous tip-off that they started looking for the body at the farm, which was a known drug spot.

They used a flight to get an aerial view of the farm to find the body’s exact location. They discovered several freshly dug sites.

I Am a Killer Jema
One of the freshly dug sites found by the police

When they interviewed the people nearby, they were able to find the body and also get Jema’s mother’s name, leading to her arrest.

Jema and her mother confessed their crime on the same day. Jema used the defense of the battered spouse syndrome to plead not guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

It was argued in the court that she killed her husband in self-defense. Several witnesses testified that Jema was repeatedly abused by Javon. Dr. Lisa Witcher confirmed that Jema met all of the factors of a battered spouse.

However, the prosecutors argued that Jema showed no remorse. Additionally, her statements contradicted the evidence that was recovered. 

Jema shot her husband four times. She claimed that before the last shot to the head, Javon said to her that they will die together. 

Rob Russell, the prosecuting attorney, said that Javon had a bullet in his jaw at that time, and he should not have been able to speak. Furthermore, not informing the police and hiding the body was a sign of a guilty conscience.

Taking all this into consideration, the jury found her guilty of manslaughter. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Jema’s mother spent 30 days in prison. She, along with Jema’s friend, received a five-year suspended sentence. 

According to Dr. Witcher, the choices that were made by Jema after Javon’s death played a huge part in the decision of the jury. If Jema’s mother had acted differently, Jema would perhaps not be in prison today.

Also Read: I Am a Killer season 4 summary and endings explained