Joanne Armour is serving 20 years to life for defending herself and her 14 year old daughter against an attack from her close friend of eight years, Lacandace Miles, in December of 2013. Despite her desire to go to trial, she maintains that she was pressured into taking a plea after she felt threatened with her daughter possibly being implicated in the incident. Joanne had suffered extensive abuse at the hands of her previous husband, and then more abuse while she was involved with Ms. Miles.
Joanne and her current, although estranged, husband lived together for more than 14 years, until 2013, during which time he often beat her, resulting in numerous hospital visits. She did not work outside the home — her husband provided for her and her daughter, who is now 19. He would go away and come back frequently, leaving her with no money. At one point, he had left and she and her daughter were evicted. She decided that she had had enough of his abuse. When Lacandace invited her to move in, she decided it was her best option. She and Lacandace had a long friendship, and she often took care of Lacandace’s four children, making sure that they were fed. Unfortunately, this relationship also began to be characterized by abuse — with Lacandace slapping and punching Joanne. This resulted in Joanne trying to defend herself. However, with nowhere to go, and unable to find room in a shelter, she moved in with Lacandace, taking her daughter with her. They lived together as a family with the children. Even Lacandace’ own family acknowledged that Joanne cared for Lacandace’s young children as if they were her own.
The abuse escalated, and Joanne was in fear for her life and the life of her daughter, but also distraught about what would happen to Lacandace’s young children if she left, especially her five year old son. Joanne contacted her sister who lives in Chicago, who purchased bus tickets for Joanne and her daughter. On the night of December 20, 2013, Joanne was ready to leave with her daughter. Lacandace attempted to wake up her young son at 9pm, and Joanne advised her to let the child sleep. Lacandace came at Joanne, and slapped her, causing her to fall and hit her head. At that point, she was weak and dazed. Lacandace got on top of her and continued hitting her. Joanne’s daughter intervened in an attempt to save her mother. Joanne was terrified when Lacandace started to bite and scratch her daughter. When she saw blood on her daughter, she “snapped” from fear and picked up a stick that Lacandace kept by the door and hit her, in an attempt to get her to stop biting her daughter. At one point, she did hit Lacandace in the head, but Lacandace was upright and still fighting. Lacandace passed out and Joanne took her child and fled to the bus station, still in fear. Joanne did what any mother would do feeling that her child’s life was threatened.
She was subsequently picked up in Chicago and brought back to stand trial. According to Joanne she was threatened with the potential implication of her daughter if she did not take a plea. She had no one to talk to and no support. In order to save her child, she pled to murder in the second degree, not knowing the implications of the charge. Her only intent was to leave and make a new life for herself and her daughter in a safe city. There were two coroners reports, both of which were inconclusive as to the cause of death.
Joanne feels tremendous remorse, but has tried in every way possible to use her time in prison for her improvement, completing classes in Alternatives to Violence and Family Violence. She is very involved with Rehabilitation Through the Arts, a group that brings theater into the prisons. She has starred in several productions and also writes poetry which has enriched her life in many ways. Joanne maintains hope that she will be able to come home and be with her daughter as she enters nursing school.