Born in Independence, Missouri, Hanson graduated from Odessa, MO High School and attended college at Southwestern Assemblies of God College (SAGU) in Waxahachie, Texas a suburb of Dallas, Texas. After working selling real estate and insurance, a job promotion brought her to New York City. There, a part-time modeling job eventually became a full-time career in the 1980s.
In June 1986, she rejected the sexual advances of her landlord, Steve Roth. Roth hired two friends, Steven Bowman and Darren Norman, to attack Hanson. Hanson testified that Roth asked her to step outside a bar, and then stood by while the two men, after announcing a "stick-up," slashed her face with a razor blade. The assault left three wounds that required surgery and over 100 stitches to close, resulting in permanent scars.
Roth and the two attackers were tried separately, with Judge Jeffrey Atlas presiding over both trials. In Roth's trial, a lawyer for Roth suggested that his breaking off of a long-term gay relationship with Bowman that day led Bowman to attack Hanson out of jealousy. In Roth's trial, he was found guilty of first degree assault for arranging the attack.
In the trial of Bowman and Norman a few months later, Hanson was subjected to a controversial cross examination by Bowman's defense attorney Alton H. Maddox, who impugned her character in a line of questioning the prosecutor called "disgusting and filthy". Maddox also asserted that Hanson had "racial hangups" that led her to falsely identify Bowman and Norman, who are black, as her attackers. Hanson and her attorney later publicly criticized the criminal justice system for allowing her to be humiliated on the witness stand. Bowman and Norman were found guilty.
At sentencing, Atlas gave Roth the 5 to 15 year maximum sentence, but not before telling a weeping Hanson and her attorney he was "incensed" at their public criticism of the criminal justice system. After a brief recess, Atlas apologized to Hanson and her lawyer. Mayor Ed Koch expressed outrage at Atlas's comments. Bowman and Norman were sentenced to the 5 to 15 year maximum sentence as well.
Hanson has since lobbied for reform in the way victims of crimes are treated in criminal courts.
Her works as a screenwriter include:
In popular culture
In the fall 1987 series premiere of Beauty and the Beast on CBS, Catherine Chandler's face is cut up with a box cutter by unknown thugs in a manner very similar to Hanson's injuries. She is treated and nursed to health by the mysterious "beast", Vincent. The date of the attack is shown on a police report as 12 April 1986.
- Purdum, Todd S. (6 June 1986). "MODEL SLASHED; AN EX-LANDLORD IS AMONG 3 HELD". The New York Times.
Miss Hanson was in stable condition at St. Vincent's Hospital yesterday after undergoing surgery and receiving about 100 stitches for three cuts on her face.
- Shipp, E.R. (December 16, 1986). "LAWYER RAISES ISSUE OF JEALOUSY IN SLASHING CASE". The New York Times.
- Shipp, E.R. (21 April 1987). "DEFENSE LAWYERS' TACTICS: UNFAIR OR JUST AGGRESSIVE?". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2007.
- James, George (12 May 1987). "MAN GIVEN 5-TO-15-YEAR TERM IN MODEL'S SLASHING". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 October 2007.
As Judge Atlas spoke, Miss Hanson, a 25-year-old model, put her face in her hands and wept. Later, after a brief recess, the judge apologized to Miss Hanson, saying he realized that testifying had been 'a painful experience.'
- "Koch Assails Judge on Remarks". The New York Times. 13 May 1987. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
Mr. Koch said that Ms. Hanson "went through hell" and "has already suffered enough." He added, "I am shocked - no, I am outraged" at the remarks by Justice Jeffrey M. Atlas of State Supreme Court in Manhattan at the sentencing of the landlord, Steven Roth, on Monday.
- Johnson, Kirk (30 July 1987). "2 Men Given 5-to-15-Year Prison Terms in Slashing of Model". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
Justice Atlas said that the weight of the evidence in the trial made the defendants' claims of innocence 'utterly unconvincing' and that the 'terrible' nature of the crime made the maximum term imperative for both men.
- Johnson, Kirk (3 December 1986). "Model Gives Grim Account of Night She Was Slashed". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
- Wadler, Joyce (5 January 1987). "Model Marla Hanson, Showing the Face of Courage to a Jury, Helps Convict the Thug Who Maimed Her". People. Time Inc. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
- "Larry King Live (transcript)". CNN. 22 March 2002. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
- "Interact With People In The News (online chat transcript)". USA Today. 21 January 2005. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
- Marla Hanson on IMDb