‘Stand Your Ground’ Fails Abused Wife

A Florida mother who fired a warning shot to defend herself from an abusive husband is facing 20 years in jail, despite the state’s now-famous ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.

31-year-old mother of three Marissa Alexander fired a single shot into the ceiling as she attempted to escape her 36-year-old husband, Rico Gray.

In a 2010 deposition, Gray admitted to “four or five” previous incidents of domestic violence involving Alexander.  Describing one of those incidents, which resulted in Alexander going to the hospital, he said, “We was staying together and I pushed her back and she fell in the bathtub and hit her head.” An ex-partner of Gary’s, Chartrissia Anderson, who has a 9-year-old daughter with him, has also come forward to describe the violence she suffered at Gray’s hands.

This is how Alexander –- who had just given birth nine days before the incident — described being shoved, strangled and held against her will on that August 2010 night, per the blog set up by her first husband, Lincoln Alexander, on her behalf:

He and my two stepsons were supposed to be exiting the house thru the front door, but he didn’t leave.  Instead he came into the kitchen that leads to the garage and realized I was unable to leave. Instead of leaving thru the front door where his vehicle was parked outside of the garage, he came into the kitchen by himself. I was terrified from the first encounter and feared he came to do as he had threatened. The weapon was in my right hand down by my side and he yelled, “B*** I will kill you!”, and charged toward me. In fear and desperate attempt, I lifted my weapon up, turned away and discharged a single shot in the wall up in the ceiling.  As I stood my ground it prevented him from doing what he threatened and he ran out of the home.  Outside of the home, he contacted the police and falsely reported that I shot at him and his sons [from a previous relationship]. The police arrived and I was taken into custody.

“I believe when he threatened to kill me, that’s what he was absolutely going to do. That’s what he intended to do. Had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here,” she told CNN.

Four months after her arrest, a judge rejected Alexander’s attempt to seek immunity under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, saying that she could have escaped her husband “through the front or back door.” In March, a jury took just 12 minutes to return a guilty verdict against Alexander for three counts of aggravated assault. Last week a judge denied Alexander’s request for a new trial; she is set to be sentenced on May 11 where under Florida mandatory sentencing law, she faces a 20 year sentence.

So why doesn’t the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law apply to her?

Last month, I detailed how the law had been unevenly applied across Florida. The application of the law in both the initial lack of an arrest in the Trayvon Martin case as well as in the case of John McNeil of Georgia, where, like with Alexander, an African American was denied a ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense, has led to suggestions of a racial double standard.

Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville Chapter of the NAACP, told CNN: “The law is applied differently between African-Americans and whites who are involved in these types of cases.” But a little publicized case in Arizona where a 22-year-old black male shot and killed a 29-year-old mentally disabled white male but was not charged due to that state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law may suggest otherwise.

Instead, argued Melissa Harris-Perry on Sunday (video below), “this is the rule of what occurs for women and for men who are in situations of domestic violence” — that the law will not protect them if they defend themselves from abusers.

She spoke to Brooklyn Law School professor Liz Schneider, who said:

“I’m a lawyer and a law professor and since the 1970s. I’ve worked on cases and written about problems of cases involving self-defense, involving battered women that either kill or assault, and these are terrible cases. And there are cases in which women often serve a very long period of time. They are convicted by juries or sent to prison for long terms by judges.”

“The kinds of understandings that judges and juries bring show a lack of understanding of the history of abuse, a lack of sensitivity to women who have experienced abuse, and a sense that these women cannot be reasonable, which is a critical facet of what the self-defense laws require. And so you see [cases like Alexander's] not only I want to say sadly in this country, but I’ve also worked on cases around the globe, you see this around the world.”

Harris-Perry asked Kim Dadou, a domestic violence survivor who served 17 years in a New York state prison for shooting her abusive boyfriend to death — and is now with the Correctional Association of New York, fighting for a new bill to help incarcerated survivors of domestic violence — “why is the victim blamed in a domestic violence situation?”

“It’s bullying within the home,” Dadou said. “There’s a big outcry against bullying, but that’s what domestic violence is. [People ask] ‘why didn’t you leave?’ I was reading on Marissa’s case and it says that they said she should have left through the front door or through the back door and not the garage.”

“Well, you know what? I say to those people, I am so glad you’ve never known that kind of fear that paralyzes you, or that kind of fear or that kind of danger that prevents you from going out the front door or the back door, and you’re trapped within your own home. and how — how can you blame the victim?”

“You don’t blame a rape victim for being raped because she had on tight jeans. Why do you blame a domestic violence victim for staying in her own home? You’re re-victimizing the victim.”

Watch the discussion between Harris-Perry, Schneider, Dadou and also Good magazine associate editor Nona Willis Aronowitz:

· You can sign a petition for Marissa here.

Related stories:

New Shocking ‘Stand Your Ground’ Case, But Florida Unlikely To Revisit Law

House GOP Version Of VAWA Would Strip Confidentiality From Abuse Victims

Dispatches From The War On Women: Who Deserves Domestic Violence Protection?

Picture: CNN screengrab


Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

Victims are often blamed, and people don't realize that we feel guilty enough on our own.

Jane R.
Jane R5 years ago

Petition signed. I can't believe this could happen to someone just for shooting the ceiling. People testified to his abuse yet he's free? So wrong!!!

Wendy C.
Wendy C.5 years ago

This tells me the smartest thing to do is to kill your abuser even if it isn't necessary just so there is only one side to the story! Is this what happens to people who do the "right" thing?

Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon5 years ago

Can we all please refrain from referring to states as monoliths of ignorance and the citizens of those states as one big bundle of ignorant mean-spirited bigots?

There is no state in the US that doesn't have it's share of folks who can be described with those words, even if it isn't in the headlines at the moment...as well as many fine thoughtful decent people among its citizenry.

Condemning any entire state or the entire population of any state is in itself bigotry.

Susan L.
Susan L5 years ago

There are states in our Union that I now refuse to visit, vacation in, spend money in, etc. becuase of the inhumane-totally-insane laws they have been drafting and enacting recently. Yes, of course, FL is one of them! Having been a Christian but now an athiest, it is more difficult for me to balance my understanding of Christ's teachings of love, acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness with the warped inperpretation of his teachings being used to facilitate bigotry, intolerance, homophobia, anti-women's rights, injustice, violence, power, control, and domination (white over non-white; man over woman; human over non-human; adult over juvenile). Would be great if Jesus could pop in again just to straighten folks out as to what he said the first time around! Perhaps too many legislaors feel they are gods.

Susan S.
Susan S5 years ago

This is the most ludicress thing I have ever heard of . Is the whole of Florida filled with old white men who don't know that it is the 21st century ? Women no longer have to suffer abuse from ANY man! This woman deserves a medal for protecting herself and her 9 day old child---NOT 20 years in jail. What the hell is wrong with the people of FL???
He is just damned lucky it wasn't me he threatened-- They would have needed a shovel to collect the pieces that were left of him.

Emily M.
Emily M5 years ago

It is essentially illegal for Black women to survive violence in the United States. If you fight back and defend yourself, you're the criminal. It happened to this woman. It happened to Cece McDonald, and it happened to countless others that don't make it to the news. The abusers and bigots are the ones who should be put in jail, not the victims.

Arild Warud

Blatant discrimination,but get rid of that stupid law.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Okay, I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that she is looking at 20 yrs. for shooting a bullet into her own ceiling - - -

Just F-in' Crazy!!!

And one more reason to stay the F*CK out of Florida. A few more of these and I wouldn't give 2 cents for their tourist industry anymore.
Disney stock anyone?