Marissa Alexander, the African-American Florida woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for discharging a gun in self-defense, will get a new trial. Alexander fired her gun into the ceiling because she was afraid her abusive husband, Rico Gray, would kill her. Alexander claimed protection under the “Stand Your Ground” law, the same law relied upon to acquit George Zimmerman of the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Gray has a history of abusive behavior with Alexander and other women. At the time of the incident in August 2010, Alexander had a restraining order against him, and had been previously hospitalized due to injuries sustained from his abuse. On the day she fired the warning shot into the ceiling, Alexander had gone to her old home to retrieve some personal items when Gray began to threaten her. Alexander locked herself in the bathroom for safety, but Gray broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her before she was able to break away and run to the garage. When she could not open her garage door, Alexander grabbed her gun, for which she had a concealed carry permit. When Gray saw the gun, he told her he would kill her, so she fired a shot in the air to warn him to stay away. She thought it was “the lesser of two evils.”
The jury took only 12 minutes to convict Alexander, a mother of three, of three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon–even though nobody was hurt and she did not aim her gun directly at her husband.
To parallel Alexander’s case with the Zimmerman trial produces disturbing questions about race, gender, and the justice system in Florida and across this nation. “The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today,” said Representative Corrine Brown after Alexander’s sentencing. “One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the ‘Stand Your Ground Law’ will not apply to them. The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently.”
A Florida appeals court ordered a new trial after finding the lower court had issued improper jury instructions on self-defense.
Media Resources: MSNBC 9/26/2013; Feminist Majority Foundation Blog 7/18/2013; Scribd
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