Violence Against Women

Marissa Alexander Has Accepted a Plea Deal

Marissa Alexander, the woman imprisoned for firing a warning shot in the presence of her abusive husband, chose to accept a plea deal Monday with the state of Florida, pleading guilty to three felony counts of aggravated assault.

via Daniel Arauz
via Daniel Arauz

As part of the plea deal, Alexander received three years imprisonment, but she will be credited for the time she’s spent behind bars. As of Monday, Alexander must serve another 65 days in Duval County Jail. After that time, Alexander must spend another two years on house arrest. She will wear an ankle monitor and be permitted to leave her home only to go to work, church, her children’s school, and doctors’ appointments. Alexander will remain in custody until January 27.

Alexander, an African-American survivor of domestic violence and the mother of three children, was initially sentenced to 20 years for aggravated assault, charges that resulted from a 2010 incident during which Alexander fired warning shots to stop her estranged husband, Rico Gray, from assaulting her. Alexander had previously locked herself in a bathroom to escape Gray, who then broken down the door and grabbed Alexander by the neck. She then tried to flee the home through a garage, but could not open the door to the outside. While in the garage, Alexander grabbed a gun. She fired the warning shot only after Gray, who had a history of domestic violence with Alexander, threatened, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” No one was injured as a result of Alexander’s actions.

Alexander was convicted in 12 minutes. Her conviction was later overturned by a state appeals court in September 2013. The appeals court found that the trial judge had improperly instructed the jury on self-defense and ordered a new trial, which was set to begin this December.

During its most recent session, the Florida state legislature expanded its law to include warning shots as a protected means of self-defense, but this summer, a judge refused to rehear Alexander’s case on the basis of the state’s revised Stand Your Ground law. Advocates from around the nation had called on State Attorney Angela Corey to drop all the charges against Alexander, who had already spent 1,030 days in prison. Instead, Corey sought a new 60-year sentence for Alexander using Florida’s 10-20-life mandatory minimum sentencing statute for gun offenses.

The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign has raised over $100,000 for Alexander’s legal defense. In a statement issued shortly after the plea deal was announced, the group pledged to continue their work. “Alexander’s case has unfolded in the context of the larger crisis of mass incarceration that disproportionately impacts black women and survivors of domestic and sexual violence,” they said. “The ACLU estimates that 85-90% of people in women’s prisons have been victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse.”

Media Resources: Florida Times-Union 11/24/14; 11/24/14; Florida State Legislature; Free Marissa Now 11/24/14; Feminist Newswire 7/29/14, 3/4/14, 9/26/13; American Civil Liberties Union 4/29/11

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