ABOVE PHOTO: Marissa Alexander
Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman who fired a warning shot at her husband and was sentenced to 20 years in prison as a result, will appear at a bail hearing this Friday to learn if she will be set free, The Florida Times-Union reports.
Alexander made her first court appearance last Thursday after the 1st District Court of Appeal threw out her conviction for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and 20-year prison sentence for firing a shot in the direction her husband and two stepchildren.
The 33-year-old Jacksonville woman has maintained her innocence since being convicted of the crime in March. She insists the shot she fired was in self-defense against her husband, Rico Gray, who she says was attacking her at the time. Gray’s two children from a previous relationship were in the room when Alexander fired the shot.
The appellate court ruled that Circuit Judge James Daniel made a mistake when shifting the burden to Alexander to prove she was acting in self-defense. He told the jury that she had to prove she was being battered by Gray, but the appellate court ruled that the prosecution had to prove Alexander was not acting in self-defense.
Here are some more details on the case:
Alexander said her husband accused her of infidelity and questioned whether he was the father of the child she’d given birth to a week earlier. Alexander told him to leave and locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck and shoved her to the floor.
She ran into the garage but found she couldn’t leave because the garage door wouldn’t open. She got a gun from the glove compartment of a car in the garage, went back into the house and when Gray saw her, she said he charged saying he was going to kill her. Alexander fired the gun.
The Stand Your Ground claim was rejected because Alexander returned to the house after fleeing into the garage. Prosecutors claim Alexander could have gotten out of the garage but came back into the house yelling threats at Gray.
The appellate court did rule that Senterfitt was correct to deny the Stand Your Ground motion.
Assistant State Attorney Rich Mantei said despite the passions aroused by the case, the facts show Alexander engaged in criminal behavior.
“People are entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts,” Mantei said. “Two judges and six jurors have found this was not Stand Your Ground.”
Mantei also said people need to remember that the true victims of this incident are Gray’s two children.
“Whatever you think of Mr. Gray, those children continue to suffer from this incident,” Mantei said.
Alexander was originally released on bail after the incident occurred in August 2010. But her bail was revoked in February 2011 after she went to see Gray even though she had been ordered by a judge to stay away from him, and was arrested for battery.
Alexander’s case drew national attention during the trial of George Zimmerman, the wanna-be neighborhood watchman who shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin dead in February of 2012. Authorities in Sanford, Fla., waited a month before arresting Zimmerman after he invoked the state’s Stand Your Ground law, arguing he was defending himself when he killed Martin. Alexander invoked the controversial law, but her claim to the defense was rejected during a hearing on the matter.
State Attorney Angela Corey, who tried Zimmerman and Alexander’s cases, argued that her claim did not fall under the state’s Stand Your Ground law. It was logic that did not sit well with Alexander’s supporters who protested outside of the courthouse where the she appeared last week.
“The justice system is not working,” said Reina Fernandez, one of the women with Sisterhood of Survivors. “The message we’re getting is that if you’re a victim of domestic violence you should just let the man beat and kill you.”
The Rev. Richard Burton, senior director of Project REACH, said Alexander was a victim of racial prejudice.
“If Marissa was a white woman this would not be happening,” Burton said. “What Angela Corey is doing is nothing less than what the KKK did back in my day.”
Judy Thompson of Forgotten Majority, which advocates for the humane treatment of people in prison, said Alexander has been victimized by her husband and by the judicial system that is suppose to protect her.
“We have decriminalized domestic violence,” Thompson said. “Even though her husband beat her, he was never charged with a crime.”