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When Francine came home, she was met by a drunken Mickey, who demanded dinner. Francine told him that she would have to go shopping as there wasn't anything in the cabinets or refrigerator to make for dinner; Mickey grudgingly allowed her to go. About 40 minutes later, Francine came home from the store with a bag full of groceries. Mickey grabbed it from her and began pulling items out. But with each item, Mickey said, "Why'd you get this?" or "Why'd you get that?" and when he saw that Francine had bought TV dinners, something her children considered a treat, Mickey went ballistic and began punching and kicking Francine, knocking her into a heap on the floor. Francine had both her eyes black and blue, a split lip, a swollen face, and bruises on her ribs and back. He yelled at Francine, calling her every obscene and vulgar word he could think of. He told her that he didn't want to smell the TV dinners cooking, and Francine begged him saying that the kids were hungry...but Mickey didn't care.
After Mickey seemed to calm down and he sat on the recliner, Francine turned the oven on and put the TV dinners in. As soon as the smell of the food hit Mickey's nose, he got up, went into the kitchen, and turned the oven off. He punched Francine for good measure because she disobeyed him. When Francine tried to fight back, he backhanded her. When he went to hit her again, Francine yelled, "Go ahead then!" and as soon as Mickey came closer, Francine yelled, "No! Don't!" and put her arms in front of her for protection.
Mickey, looking for a way to break Francine, went to her school books. He figured that since he allowed her to go back to school that he could forbid her to go. He picked up her books and walked over to Francine, telling her that she was not going to go to school anymore. That she was needed at home, to cook, clean, and do what a housewife was supposed to do. Francine, not wanting to give up school, defiantly told Mickey that she was not going to quit school. Mickey said that he would fix it where she would never be able to go back to school, and began to tear up her school books and notebooks. Francine ran over and began punching him, then went onto the floor and began picking up the torn papers and books. Mickey grabbed Francine by the back of her head and punched her in the face. Then he grabbed her by the throat and began strangling her. Francine hit him, but became too weak. Just as she was about to pass out, Mickey let go of her and she came crashing to the floor.
Francine, gasping for air, yelled to her children, who were locked out in the yard by their father, to call the police. The children did as their mother said, and ran over to their Grandma Hughes' house to call the police. As soon as Mickey realized that the police were on their way, he calmed down and sat on the recliner.
When the police arrived, they asked Francine if she was okay and if she wanted them to take her some place. Francine declined their offer, because she knew that no matter what she did Mickey always won. While the police were there, Mickey threatened to kill Francine as soon as the officers left, he even threatened to kill one of the officers. Hearing his threats, the officers did nothing. In Mickey's eyes, he was free to do whatever he wanted to do to Francine.
Mickey stayed calm for about an hour after the police left, which gave Francine time to fix the TV dinners for her children. The children and Francine had just begun eating, when Mickey, wanting another beer, walked into the kitchen. He started in on Francine, knocked the table over and ordered the children upstairs, telling them that they were not to come downstairs at all.
Mickey punched Francine, knocking her flat on the kitchen floor. He grabbed her head and banged it against the floor, then he forced her face into the food that was thrown on the floor and made her eat it. He beat her into a corner of the kitchen, demanding with each blow that she quit school. Finally, not being able to take anymore beatings, Francine conceded and told Mickey that she would not go to school anymore. Mickey then made Francine pick up her books and bring them out to the burn barrel and destroy them. Francine did as she was told.
By now, it was a little past 6:00 PM, and Mickey went into the downstairs bedroom to watch television. He told Francine that he wanted his dinner in bed. Francine brought it to him and waited until he was finished. When he was done, he asked Francine to have sex with him. Not really wanting to, as the thought of having sex with her ex-husband repulsed her, Francine did what Mickey wanted because she feared another beating. The sex lasted about a half an hour, after which Mickey fell asleep. Francine washed herself off and went to her children and released them from their bedroom prison. She brought them downstairs and they watched television. And as they watched television, Francine thought of what her life had become and how badly she was treated by Mickey. She thought of her children and how their lives were just as bad as her life.
No one really knows how long Francine waited before setting the fire, as she cannot recall and neither can her children. All Francine remembers is that she wanted to leave and never come back, but she couldn't leave until her son, Dana, came home from his friend's house. The longer she waited, the more she worried that Mickey would wake up and thwart her escape. Francine decided to leave and come back for her missing son. She went to the garage, but couldn't get in, so she went to the basement and retrieved a can of gasoline. She placed the can near the bedroom and bundled the children in their coats and brought them outside into the car. Francine then went back into the house and doused the bedroom with gasoline and lit it. Her intention was to burn the house down and everything in it. She did not intend to kill Mickey. She ran to the car, crying hysterically. Moments after getting into the car, flames burst through the downstairs bedroom window. Francine, crying uncontrollably, drove off as fast as she could for she feared that Mickey would be after her. As she drove off, her only thought was of her children and that she had to protect them.
Instead of setting fire to the house and killing her ex-husband, why didn't Francine just leave him? Why didn't she force him to leave her house? Did she premeditate the murder of her husband? Or, was it justifiable homicide? To find out these answers, we must start at the beginning.
In the autumn of 1960, Francine entered the seventh grade at Hunt Junior High, and her life began to change. She made friends and went to dances and to the local drugstore, where teenagers often met to hangout. Francine and her friends began going to the movies, where she came to fantasize about romantic interludes, such as long stemmed roses and candlelit dinners. Her fantasies were always about romance, not about sex, for the prospect of sex frightened her. Francine thought about sex as something that occurred only in married life. She was told by her mother and her girlfriends that virginity must be sacrosanct before marriage, and that a girl who went too far became used goods, that no other man would want, love, or respect.
15 year-old Francine met Mickey at a school dance in 1963. Mickey was 18 years-old, a year older than the boys she knew. She was instantly attracted to him, with his slim body, thick black hair, dark blue-green eyes. He carried himself with an air of sophistication that made him extremely attractive. When he asked her to dance, Francine was excited and said yes. They danced for a few minutes before Mickey asked her to go out with him the following Friday. Francine readily accepted. Francine's date with Mickey turned out to be a double date with her friend, Sharon and her boyfriend Bill. They used Mickey's car and drove to McDonald's for a bite to eat...then they parked. After this date, Mickey and Francine saw each other regularly. She learned that he lived with his parents in Dansville, that Mickey had left school when he was 16 years-old. After she was with Mickey for a few weeks, she and Sharon went to a dance, but no one asked her to dance, for they knew that she belonged to Mickey. Francine was unaware that the Hughes family was well known in the area as a family that you didn't want to cross, for if you crossed one Hughes you crossed them all.
A few weeks later, Mickey brought Francine to meet his parents, Flossie and Berlin, who lived on Adams Street in Dansville. Francine sensed that her future mother-in-law disapproved of her, but she didn't care, for she didn't know at that time that she would ever be involved with the Hughes.
That summer, after they had been together for several months, Mickey told Francine that he loved her. This floored her for she never had anyone tell her that before. After this, their relationship grew stronger, with Mickey after Francine with a passion. Their making out blossomed, and Francine was terrified that she would slip and violate the taboo of having sex before marriage. After a few weeks of being refused, Mickey asked Francine to marry him. However, Francine put him off saying that they should wait. In September 1963, Francine began tenth grade at Jackson High School, but she was only there for a few weeks before she dropped out. Mickey was more persistent than ever to sleep with Francine, and one night Francine gave into him. In her mind she thought she had to marry him. Her acceptance of the proposal delighted Mickey, but he was not to pleased that Francine insisted on waiting until they were married before they had sex again.
In a frightening episode before they were married, Francine drove Mickey's car without permission. When she drove the car back, Mickey, who was waiting for her, grabbed her by the throat and told her "Don't you ever take my car!" Francine replied it was only a joke, to which Mickey's face softened and he kissed her. Francine believed it was her fault why Mickey did that, for she knew it was wrong for her take his car without his permission. She pushed the incident to the back of her head.
A few days after the car incident, Mickey and Francine, along with his mother Flossie, went to the local jewelry store to buy wedding rings on credit, and because Mickey was out of work, Flossie cosigned the loan. The couple were married on November 4, 1963, in the Dansville Methodist Church. They honeymooned at the Hughes home in Dansville, were they had the house to themselves for a few days. They lived with his family for several months. A few weeks later, Mickey's temper flared once again. This because Francine bought a new outfit on sale at KMart. This episode caused Francine to leave Mickey and go back to her mother's. Mickey followed her and the two reconciled. They lived briefly with Francine's mother until Mickey got a job and they got their own apartment. In the months that followed, Mickey hit Francine again and again for various things that he considered an infraction to his manhood. In the spring of 1964, Francine became pregnant, just six months after they were married.
Why did Francine marry Mickey after he put his hands on her throat? Could it be because she didn't know any better, that no one ever told her that a husband should never hit or hurt his wife?
Mickey didn't return home that day or the following few days. About a week later, Flossie and Berlin came to talk to Francine. They exclaimed, in horror, that Francine could have killed their son when she threw the ashtray at him. Francine said, "What about me? What do you think could happen to me when he's hitting me? How do you think he's treating me and this child he's responsible for?" The visit allowed both sides to express how they feel, and a few days later Mickey came back and their lives resumed.
In October 1965, Francine found out she was pregnant once again. In July 1966, she gave birth to a son who was named James.
While Francine was pregnant, Mickey refrained from hitting her; but once she gave birth, Mickey resumed his beatings.
A few weeks later, Mickey's unemployment ran out, and he went to look for work; he didn't try hard enough, as he was more interested in spending his days with his brother, Dexter. He would leave home early in the morning and stay away until late at night, Mickey didn't care that his wife and children were starving. Francine, desperate, asked Mickey to apply for welfare, but he put it off, telling Francine to do it. Francine tried to explain that only the head of the household could apply and that was him, but Mickey stubbornly refused.
Finally, not being able to see her children starving, Francine went to the welfare office. She explained the dire situation at home, how the landlord was on the verge of evicting her family because the rent was past due, how the children were starving, how Mickey beat her, etc., etc. The welfare office advised her that the only way they could help her acquire a new home that they would pay for and allow her a grocery order, was for her to go to Legal Aid and apply for separate maintenance papers.
When Francine arrived at Legal Aid, she had to tell Mr. Baker, an elderly and dignified man, exactly what she told welfare. Mr. Baker told her that he had the papers that she needed and asked for the $7.00 fee. Francine told him that she didn't have the $7.00, and that she probably wouldn't be there if she had that much money. Mr. Baker put his hand in his pocket and extracted a roll of bills, and took out the $7.00 and handed it to her. Francine explained that she was unable to pay him back. Mr. Baker just shook his head, acknowledging what she had said. After she signed the separate maintenance papers, Francine was told to go back to the welfare office and get her grocery order. Back at welfare, Francine was told that when she found a place to live that welfare would pay for it.
Francine was ecstatic and scared...ecstatic because she was now free of Mickey (or so she thought), and scared because she didn't want Mickey to find out about the divorce before she had a chance to leave the house. The day after she got the grocery order, Francine and her friends, Joanne and Joyce, went house hunting. Francine looked at several houses, but the landlords wouldn't let her move in because she was single, on welfare, and had children. Eventually, she found a landlord who let her move into a small apartment with two rooms on the second floor of a run down house.
The next day, Joanne and Joyce helped Francine pack up and move to the new apartment...away from Mickey; but Mickey pulled up just as they were pulling away and chased after them. He tried to run their car off the road several times before Francine pulled up in front of the police station, with Mickey close behind, ran in and asked for help. When two officers came to her car, they found Mickey threatening and cursing Joanne. Francine hurriedly explained the situation and the officers agreed to detain Mickey, who were struggling and yelling that Francine had his kids in the car.
Francine was at her new apartment for several weeks when Flossie and Berlin found out where she was and called her. Flossie explained to Francine that Mickey had mended his ways and wasn't mad at her for leaving. She told Francine, "These children need their father. I wish you two would straighten up and get together and be a family, like you should be." Francine told her that she left because she and the children were starving and were going to be evicted, and that Mickey didn't seem to care. Flossie reiterated that Mickey wouldn't hurt her and wasn't mad at her...finally Francine broke down and agreed to see Mickey. He came around the next day and they talked; he asked her to get back together with him and Francine told him no. Mickey said that as long as she had the kids, that he would be around whenever he wanted. He came around a few days later and once again asked to get back together with her...asking so sweetly that Francine felt she had to for the sake of the children. Mickey promised that he would be the kind of husband that Francine wanted, and that he would never hurt her again...this lasted only a few days and once again he was back to treating Francine the way he always treated her.
One day while Mickey was at the house, Francine and Vicky got into a little argument about money that Francine needed from Vicky. When Vicky refused to give Francine the money, Francine went to Mickey to make Vicky give it to her. Mickey, who was drunk, didn't care what Francine needed, and Francine, in a rare moment, lost her temper. She yelled at him, telling that he was unfit to be a father. Mickey got up and stormed out of the house. After the argument, Vicky gave her the money that she needed and as Francine walked out of the house, she saw Mickey's care flying by.
When Francine came home from food shopping, she was notified that Mickey had been in a car accident and was in the hospital. When she arrived at the hospital, she was told by Flossie and Berlin that Mickey was bad, really bad, and that the doctors didn't know if he would make it, as he had several broken bones, a ruptured diaphragm, and that he had had a heart attack.
Francine never went back to house on Detroit Street. She stayed at the hospital for 48 hours straight, while Flossie brought the children to her house in Dansville. When Flossie came back to the hospital she told Francine that the house next door to her was vacant, and persuaded Francine to take the house, so it would be easier to arrange for the family to take turns being with Mickey. Francine had no choice...she agreed.
Francine was at the hospital every other day, staying for up to 18 hours at a time. She felt sorry for Mickey and didn't want to see him hurt or suffering. Francine was extremely patient with Mickey, and stayed by his side as much as possible. When he opened his eyes for the first time in many days, he didn't see Francine and began yelling for her. Francine, who had gone home, was brought back to the hospital for Mickey.
When Mickey was released from the hospital, it was agreed by Flossie and Berlin, that Mickey would stay with them, but that Francine would take care of him...changing his bandages, bathing him, and feeding him...even though all of this was against the doctor's orders, which were not to baby him. Several weeks later, Mickey came to Francine's house and stayed...permanently.
In March 1972, Flossie talked Francine into taking out a loan so Francine could purchase the house right next door to her at 1079 Grove Street. The house had two upstairs bedrooms, a bedroom and bathroom downstairs, a dining room, kitchen, two enclosed porches and a detached garage.
In August 1971, Mickey, who didn't need cajoling to beat Francine, went after her with a knife, threatening to kill her. Francine escaped and fled to Flossie's house, where Berlin blocked Mickey from entering. Mickey began shouting and pounding on his parents' back door, but Berlin refused to allow his son entrance into the house while he had the knife in his hand. Somehow Mickey got the door opened, and he and his father had fight for the knife. Berlin somehow go the knife away from Mickey and threw it far into the weeds that surrounded the property. Mickey pushed his way passed his father and grabbed Francine by the hair and dragged her out into the yard, where he kicked her and punched her. As her son beat Francine unmercifully, Flossie looked on helplessly...as she was no match for her extremely violent son. A neighbor, Chris Eifert, who lived nearby, heard Mickey's shouting and Francine's cries for help. He ran over and grabbed Mickey off of Francine. Just then the police arrived. When the police approached Mickey, he went ballistic and began fighting with the officers. They handcuffed him and place him in the back of the patrol car. One of the officers questioned Francine as to what happened, and she told him. Francine asked if he was going to arrest Mickey for attempted murder, and the officer told her that he would only be arrested for fighting with the officers, as they had not seen Mickey with the knife and hadn't seen him beating Francine.
Francine, in an effort to save herself and her children, talked to Flossie and Berlin about having Mickey committed, but both Flossie and Berlin wouldn't hear of it. They said their son wasn't crazy, that he was still being affected by the accident. However, what was their reason for why Mickey beat Francine prior to the accident?
Francine, seeing a chance to escape, ran to Flossie's house, she found Berlin alone and begged him to call the police. Then Francine hid in the closet because she knew that Mickey would be over shortly. Through the closet, Francine heard Berlin talking on the phone to the police, and then she heard Mickey yelling and banging on the door. She heard Berlin tell Mickey that she wasn't there, but Mickey wasn't buying it. He broke down the door and ran into the house, looking everywhere for Francine. Francine didn't know how long she was in the closet, but finally she heard the voices of policemen. The officers asked her what happened, and then seeing the black and blues on her face and her neck all red, the officers asked Francine if she wanted to go to the hospital. She told them yes. At the emergency room, the doctors told Francine that there wasn't anything seriously wrong with her. Francine called her brother-in-law, Wimpy, to drive her home. When Wimpy arrived at the hospital, he took one look at Francine and told her she wasn't in any condition to go home. Francine agreed, and Wimpy brought her to his house, where his wife, Lillian, took care of Francine. Wimpy called Flossie and told her that Francine was going to stay at his house, and Flossie said that she would mind the children.
The next morning, Francine decided to have a talk with Wimpy. she said that Mickey needed help, but Wimpy said that Mickey wasn't anymore crazy than he himself was. Wimpy's solution was to have Francine persuade Mickey to join the Dansville Church so God could help him. The discussion continued at Flossie's house, where to Francine's amazement, Flossie agreed that Mickey need to be committed, but Berlin would have none of that. He told Flossie and Francine that no son of his was going to go to a mental ward. When Flossie told him to sit down and shut up because she knew what was right, Berlin got up grabbed his coat, and walked out, Berlin stayed away for three weeks, during which Flossie took to her bed. After that, there was no more mention of committing Mickey, and Francine knew that she was totally on her own.
In the beginning of 1973, a few months after the final discussion of committing Mickey, he was arrested for striking an officer. Mickey spent 36 hours in jail; Francine was furious...Mickey could beat her, chock her, almost kill her, but he was never arrested, yet whenever he hit an officer or threatened to kill an officer he was arrested.
Francine thought about forcing Mickey to leave, but she always bad about that, for she thought that the children needed their father. She felt Mickey had right that she couldn't and shouldn't take away...even though Mickey didn't care about her rights and feelings.
In the beginning of 1974, Joanne, Francine's friend, told her what Mickey was telling everyone at The Wooden Nickel; it seemed that Mickey was bragging to everyone that, "I'll never leave her. She pays for everything. I've got it made!" This hurt Francine more than she would ever admit.
In June 1974, Mickey allowed Francine to attend her sister's graduation; however, on the day of the ceremony, Francine went to start the care, but the car wouldn't start. She asked Mickey to start it for her, but he refused and told her to keep trying. She tried for so long until she realized that she wasn't going to make the graduation. When she finally gave up and went inside the house, Mickey was holding the distributor cap in his hand and said, "It's pretty hard to start a car without it. It's in my pocket and that's where it stays. I want you to remember that's my car!"
Throughout 1974, Mickey drank alcohol like it was going out of style. He was constantly drunk and constantly cruel to his family; now he was not only cruel to Francine, but he was also cruel to his children. Their oldest daughter, Christy, was overweight, and whenever Mickey saw her eating (even if it was dinner), he badgered her to the point where she cried and couldn't eat. When he wanted the children out of the way, he either locked them out in the yard or locked them in their bedroom. He wouldn't think twice about backslapping them if he felt they were out of line or if they didn't move fast enough. Francine was powerless to stop him.
In March 1976, Mickey and Francine decided to get their children a puppy. The dog was a half Labrador, half Collie bitch, whom the children named Lady. From the moment Lady came to live with the Hughes, she was not allowed to come into the house; and Mickey refused to provide any kind of shelter for the small shivering pup. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the dog survived the fierce winter.
In September 1976, Francine's grant came through and she began taking courses at Lansing Business College. Mickey wasn't too pleased with the idea of Francine gong back to school, but he agreed until further notice.
That same month, it was determined that Lady was pregnant...she was only about seven or eight months old. As she swelled with pregnancy and had difficulty moving around, Francine and the children tried on many occasions to have her brought into the house, but Mickey refused to allow her entrance into the house. One bitter cold day, when Francine came home from school, she was confronted by Mickey who said, "Somebody better go check on that dog," and when Francine asked why, Mickey said, "She's having her pups."
When Francine and the children went to check on Lady and found three dead puppies laying on the ground...they had frozen to death. When the children saw the dead pups, they cried hysterically and so did Francine. Then, Francine saw Lady, who was crying in pain and bleeding profusely. Francine saw that Lady had a pup stuck half way inside of her. She told her daughter, Christy, to call a veterinarian. Christy ran into the house and looked in the phone book for a veterinarian. She called and the vet told her to bring Lady in; Mickey, overhearing Christy's end of the conversation, stated loudly that he wasn't going to waste money on a dog. The vet told Christy that if they couldn't bring the dog in, that the pup would have to be pulled out. Christy ran back to her mother and told her what the vet said. Francine pulled the pup out, but Lady was still bleeding profusely. Francine brought her into the enclosed back porch, but Mickey kicked the bleeding dog out. Francine put blankets in a corner of the yard and when she went to check on Lady a little while later, she found the dog...dead. Lady had frozen to death after giving birth to her pups.
Was it the accident that caused Mickey to be so sadistically cruel? Or, was he born that way?
Francine was brought into the jail, where she was questioned extensively. A few hours later, she was told that the body of her husband was found in the house. He died from smoke inhalation and had burns over more than half of his body. Francine was arrested for the murder of her husband. Francine called her mother to ask her to take care of the kids; her mother arrived at the police station, and the kids were placed in her custody.
On Monday, March 16, 1977, the case of The State versus Francine Hughes began its process through the legal system, which would eventually culminate in Francine's trial. Since Francine couldn't afford an attorney, one was appointed to her by the courts. Her attorney was a 31 year-old man named Aryon Greydanus. He entered private practice only few months before the murder.
That same night, March 16, 1977, Greydanus went to visit Francine in jail. They talked about everything and Francine told Greydanus about her life with Mickey. Greydanus was stunned to hear the horrors of her 13 years with Mickey. Greydanus told his wife about the case, and when she asked why Francine didn't just leave her husband, Greydanus explained, "She couldn't. She was too scared. He had her convinced that wherever she went he'd find her and kill her. He probably would have, too. She was in a real bind. She could get killed if she tried to leave the guy and she was going to get killed if she stayed. He was getting closer to it every day."
Greydanus went to see Francine every week to get the full details that were needed for the case. He promised that he would do everything he could to help her.
Flossie was called by the prosecutor, but all she did was show how vindictive she really was by lying about what happened between Mickey and Francine. When Greydanus cross examined her, Flossie's anger was off the chart when he caught her in a lie.
Greydanus' best witness was Francine herself. She told the jury about her life with Mickey, and explained why she couldn't leave him. On November 1, 1977, eight days after the trial began, Francine was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.
Francine's case was a legal precedent for battered women everywhere, but it also hurt battered women in the court system, for it indicated that there was something wrong with battered women. It's been noted that battered woman rarely strike back against their tormentors during an altercation...they almost always strike back when their husbands or boyfriends are calm, asleep, or watching television.
All information came from the book "The Burning Bed" by Faith McNulty, and http://www.umich.edu/~clemency/clemency_manual
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