The Florida woman whose use of a ‘Stand your ground’ defense in a domestic violence case failed has been sentenced to 20 years.
Marissa Alexander, a mother of three, had fired a warning shot when she was in fear of her life from a husband who had a history of domestic violence. Her husband told her “if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you.”
But a judge rejected her ‘Stand your ground defense.’ He said she could have escaped, despite her having given birth prematurely only nine days before the 2010 incident with the baby in the house.
The sentence of 20 years without parole results from Florida’s statutory minimum sentencing laws.
“If we want to protect self-defense in Florida, we can’t have a 20-year mandatory minimum hanging over the heads of people who fire warning shots instead of just killing their attacker,” said Greg Newburn, Florida Project Director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
Criticism of the uneven application of the law in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case has led Florida Governor Rick Scott to order hearings into a possible review of the law. The law is supported by Florida voters, but according to polls, there is a yawning gender as well as partisan gap in its support.
Angela Corey, the special prosecutor brought into the Martin case by Rick Scott, has said she will fight the use of the “stand your ground” defense in that case. She has also said it doesn’t apply to Alexander either and is reported to be ‘incensed’ at what she says is widespread misreporting of the Alexander case, saying that if she could prosecute for misreporting she would.
Reports based on available court transcripts have been that Alexander’s warning shot went into the ceiling. Corey, who did not speak until Alexander’s retrial motion was heard but just before sentencing, says the one shot went into a wall then bounced to the ceiling and “happened to miss three human beings, and thank God she didn’t kill them.”
Corey said the self defense claim was invalidated because Alexander gave husband Rico Gray a black eye a few months after the 2010 shooting incident. This violated a no-contact court order.
Alexander’s two sons had originally said they feared for their safety but the eldest son later changed his account.
Her office said Corey had offered a plea bargain of three years, but Alexander rejected it, hoping to convince a judge she had been in fear for her life. News website Loop 21 reported that her office was not being completely forthcoming about the conditions of the offers.
“Once someone doesn’t get the result they want, they shouldn’t get to whine about it and complain,” Corey said.
“We can’t just say that because somebody [Gray] has a past, that they’re not worth (protection) like other people … that somebody can just pick up a gun and shoot them. You still have to do it within the bounds of the law, and (Marissa) did not.”
“What we’re saying is that she did it out of anger, not fear,” Corey said. “Her words proved that and her actions proved that.”
Linda Osmundson, director of Community Action Stops Abuse, the domestic violence shelter in St. Petersburg, told FlaglerLive:
“The thing I see they’re hanging their hat on is that she was angry,” Osmundson said. “Well, wouldn’t you be angry if someone was beating you up?”
“Ms. Alexander exhibited great courage and restraint in protecting herself while also not killing anyone,” said Rita Smith, director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Where is the justice for battered women in Florida?”
Local Congresswoman Corrine Brown said, “this African American woman didn’t hurt anyone and now she might not hug her children for twenty years.” Brown is calling for a Justice Department review of potential racial disparities in the application of ‘Stand your ground’ defenses. Georgia’s similar law is being taken to a federal court because of concerns about those disparities.
Loop 21 spoke to Alexander, who rejected Corey’s account.
“Angela Corey is unfortunately getting bits and pieces from somebody who prefers to pervert justice, which is Rico Gray,” she said. “I find it very difficult for her to believe anything that he has to say. That’s pretty much where she’s going wrong, to begin with.”
“The truth doesn’t change. My truth has stayed the same. One of his sons have corroborated my story.”
“To me, it’s absurd for [Corey] to believe somebody who has a violent past with women, which is Rico … that I was the one who was angry. If you read the [motion] Judge Senterfitt denied, you can tell who is the aggressor. If you read [Rico’s] deposition, you can tell who is the aggressor. She’s the [state] attorney. I feel like she should know that. The facts are in black and white.”
“Look at the facts of the case and be fair. To me, it’s a human rights issue. You tell me that I can bear arms. You tell me that I can go to class and get a permit [to carry]. And you tell me everything that I need to do to get on the right side of the law, which also includes getting an injunction for no violence in place. And then you try to dictate to me my level of fear.”
Alexander attorney Kevin Cobbin says he did not mislead the public regarding the shot’s trajectory. “This is an elected official,” Cobbin said of Corey. “There is no fact that anybody has, that anybody is misleading … I really don’t understand what she’s talking about.”
Cobbin acknowledged that he did not volunteer information in any press interviews that he believed might have hurt Alexander’s chances at a new trial, which a judge denied her late last week.
“You tell me [Stand Your Ground covers] deadly force. And I chose that day not to kill my husband. It was a deterrent, and thank God it actually worked. Had it not, we would have had another statistic. And that would have been me being dead.”
“I have to continue to fight. I have children who need me.”
An appeal is being prepared. As well, Rick Scott and Florida’s Cabinet can grant Alexander clemency.
Said Congresswoman Brown:
“The three year plea deal from Angela Corey is not mercy and a mandatory twenty year sentence is not justice. I hope that the people will come to Marissa’s defense as the system has so utterly failed her. This is just the beginning, not the end.”
Picture: CNN screengrab