UPDATES ABOUT THE MARISSA ALEXANDER CASE
UPDATE: January 27, 2015
Marissa Alexander returns home under a 2- year house arrest plea deal.
House Arrest No Deal
Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman who fired a gun into the air to ward off her abusive husband and who was arrested in spite of her claim that she was acting under the rubric of Florida’s “stand your ground laws” will be free today.
But not really.
Marissa has been in jail for three years. Florida prosecutor Angela Corey- the woman whose office could not and did not win the case against George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, decided that Marissa should have the book thrown at her for firing the warning shot. Her bullet hit nobody; nobody was injured.
But Corey went for blood and Marissa was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Twenty years! She fired a warning shot! She was in fear for her life! Nobody was hurt!
Marissa entered into a plea deal and walks out of prison today. That sounds like the plea deal must have been good, right?
The deal includes Marissa being on house arrest for two years. That means that for two years she will basically be confined to her home. She will wear an ankle bracelet. Her every move will be monitored. According to an article by Maya Schenwar in “Truthout,” she will have to pay the state of Florida $105 per week to pay for monitoring fees. As she is on house arrest, she will lose basic rights of privacy that most of us take for granted. Writes Schenwar: “In prison, the loss of one’s civil liberties is glaringly apparent. The strip search, the cell sweep, and the surveillance of letters, phone calls, and visits are givens. For those whose homes have been “prisonized,” however, basic constitutional rights also crumble. Probationers and monitorees are subject to warrantless searchesand drug tests; probation officers have ready access to their homes. In fact, though seldom thought of this way, the ankle monitor is essentially a constant, warrantless search.” (https://wordpress.com/post/8280873/new/?optin)
She might as well remain in jail.
When I read Schenwar’s article it hit me that our “justice system” is little more, in too many cases, a hustle for funding for police departments and prison systems. Our police department depend upon us stepping outside of the law – or maybe not – in order to fill their coffers. I was floored when, not long ago, I read on the back of a police car in front of me that it had been purchased with proceeds from drug arrests.
“We the people” are the primary funding sources for our men and women in blue.
But it’s not just the police departments and justice system that benefit from our missteps. According to Schenwar’s article, private, for-profit companies benefit as well. Schenwar writes: “As Marissa Alexander discovered in Florida, private companies often exact fees from the people they’re imprisoning. They average around $10-$15 per day — in addition to installation costs and fees imposed for drug tests or other “services.” Those unable to pay may be re-incarcerated in a cycle that harkens back to debtor’s prison.
If one gets a ticket for speeding, even if that person was not in fact speeding, he or she can get out of it – once a hefty fee is paid.
“We the people” are cash cows for the police.
But back to house arrest: Marissa Alexander is out of jail as of today, or will be, but she will be confined to her house for two years. Schenwar writes that by the end of her house arrest, Alexander will have paid over $16,000 for being free; she will have paid for her monitoring and surveillance.
While she is on house arrest, officers or parole officers have the right to enter her home at any time, without a warrant. They can do drug tests at any time, and, of course, the cost of those tests will fall on Marissa.
This all seems not only wrong but immoral. Yet, it is our justice system, unfettered and unregulated.
Marissa is out of jail, but she is not free. House arrest…is really no deal at all.
A candid observation …
That is not freedom.
UPDATE: November 25, 2014
Florida Woman In ‘Stand Your Ground’ Case Accepts Plea Deal
A Florida woman who once had been sentenced to 20 years in a case that invoked the state’s “stand your ground” law has accepted a plea deal that will see her released from prison in January.
Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, Fla., was accused of firing what she said was a warning shot at her husband and two of his children during a domestic dispute in 2010. She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, convicted and sentenced under Florida’s mandatory minimum guidelines.
Alexander’s legal team used the stand-your-ground law as part of her legal defense. The law, as The Associated Press puts it, “says individuals have no duty to retreat from a place where they have a right to be and may use any level of force, including lethal, if they reasonably believe they face an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death.”
Alexander’s case prompted accusations of racial disparity in the application of stand your ground.
Member station WJCT of Jacksonville reports:
“The initially little-known case gained national traction in the wake the acquittal of George Zimmerman, charged in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. In both cases, defendants Alexander and Zimmerman claimed they used force in self-defense. For some, the conviction of Alexander, who is black, and acquittal of Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, signaled a bias within the justice system.”
But another Florida man recently was sentenced to life without parole in a case that mentioned stand your ground in jury instructions. Michael Dunn, who is white, fatally shot a black teenager named Jordan Davis in an argument over loud music coming from Davis’ vehicle
Alexander served nearly two years in prison before an appeals court judge vacated her conviction. The AP says the judge found that the previous ruling wrongly placed the burden on Alexander to prove that she was abused by her husband. Here’s more from the news service:
“According to Alexander, her estranged husband, Rico Gray, accused her of having an affair and questioned whether their 9-day-old baby was his. She says she locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door and shoved her to the floor. She says she tried to escape through the garage but the door wouldn’t open. She retrieved a gun from a car, went back inside and says she fired a ‘warning shot’ after Gray said he would kill her — an account backed by one of his sons. No one was injured.
“The plea deal came soon after the judge in the case decided to allow evidence that Gray had abused women in the past.”
Alexander has already served 1,030 days in jail and will serve 65 more days as part of the agreement.
“No one’s doing cartwheels going back to jail, but this was her means of getting the case behind her,” her chief attorney, Bruce Zimet, told the AP.
After her release, Alexander reportedly will be required to wear a monitoring device that will track her movements for two years. Had she been found guilty on all counts in a second trial that was set to start Dec. 1, she would have faced up to 60 years in prison.
“However,” as WJCT notes, “on Alexander’s second charge of aggravated assault, the judge still reserves the power to impose up to five years in prison during sentencing.”
UPDATE: November 21, 2014
Marissa Alexander: The REAL reason she’s behind bars
- Marissa Alexander is facing 20 years in prison after having her ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense rejected in Florida
- Alexander was found guilty on three counts of aggravated assault, which carries a minimum sentence under state law
After a verdict of “not guilty” in the George Zimmerman trial sparked an outpouring of protests across the country, another name began to attract national attention: Marissa Alexander.
The Florida mother unsuccessfully claimed a “Stand Your Ground” defense in 2012 and received a shocking sentence of 20 years in prison for a confrontation with her lover during which she fired a gun — but no one was killed or injured.
Read more: Andrea Sneiderman trial: 6 must-read docs
A chorus of support for Alexander has slowly built since Zimmerman’s acquittal last week and critics have lashed out at the state of Florida. On the surface, outrage over the state’s self-defense laws seems reasonable, but a deeper examination shows that there are some complexities in Alexander’s case that cloud the issues with Florida’s justice system.
Marissa Alexander unsuccessfully claimed Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law as a defense against multiple counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. Alexander claimed she was protecting herself from an abusive husband.
According to court documents, Alexander got into an argument with her husband, Rico Gray, after Gray found text messages on Alexander’s phone to her ex-husband. Alexander claimed Gray initially prevented her from leaving the bathroom – where they were arguing – but at some point she was able to get by him and get away. Alexander fled the house, but when she got to her car in the garage, she realized she had left her keys inside. So she got her gun from the car and re-entered the house. Alexander told police the garage door was broken, and that’s why she didn’t exit that way. Police found no evidence proving the garage door wasn’t working properly.
Watch more: Why Marissa Alexander is behind bars: It’s the law
When Alexander went back inside, she claimed Gray continued to threaten her so she fired a “warning shot” through the house — which she fired in the direction of Gray, with his children nearby.
Alexander was convicted on multiple counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. A jury found the Jacksonville, Florida, woman guilty in just 12 minutes.
Alexander’s own actions were ultimately used against her self-defense claim. While she was out on bail, awaiting trial on her aggravated assault charges, Alexander was arrested for domestic battery against Gray. Although her bail contract specifically prohibited any contact between her and Gray, Alexander went to her husband’s house — where she wasn’t living at the time — and after an altercation, he ultimately called police.
When the police contacted Alexander about the incident, she first said she didn’t know what they were talking about, and she hadn’t been at the house, but later she stated that Gray attacked her because she wouldn’t stay with him overnight. Alexander never called police and later stated she was scared. According to police reports, Alexander had no injuries, but Gray had a bloody swollen eye and told police Alexander had punched him.
In Gray’s initial deposition to police, he said he would have hit Alexander if she had really tried to threaten him, in an effort to help her and get her potential sentence reduced. Alexander and Gray collaborated on that story while she awaited trial, but Gray later admitted that it wasn’t true and that she really did threaten him and did fire a shot at him.
In 2009, Alexander filed charges against Gray, claiming he tried to choke her, but she went to the Florida District Attorney’s Office and said that wasn’t really what happened and then all charges were dropped. According Richard Kuritz, attorney for Gray and his two children, Gray has never been convicted of any violent act toward Alexander. Kuritz said the only time Gray has been arrested for domestic violence was an incident involving his brother and those charges were also dropped.
The ‘warning shot’: Out of fear … or anger?
Alexander stated she did not attempt to exit the house through any other door and said it was her right to stay and stand her ground in her own defense.
The problem with her defense was “she chose to come back in the house,” said Kuritz.
Alexander said when Gray threatened her, she felt her life was in danger, so she shot a “warning shot” in his direction, with his kids just around the wall behind him.
“A warning shot is when you shoot into the air, you shoot down on the ground, you don’t shoot straight at somebody 6 feet off the ground,” said Kuritz, in an interview with HLN’s Vinnie Politan on “HLN After Dark.” “[The shot] was at eye level with my client, right above his 12-year-old. When you have a 12-year-old child who testified to a jury that ‘I thought I was fixin’ to die,’ I’m sorry that is not a misdemeanor…When you shoot a gun that puts a 12-year-old child in fear for his life, that changes things and I think it was prosecuted appropriately.”
Considering Alexander’s actions leading up to firing the gun, on top of her decision to voluntarily contact Gray while awaiting trial, the judge rejected the use of “Stand Your Ground.”
Alexander would have had to prove there was a reasonable fear of severe bodily harm in order to prove the use of the “Stand Your Ground” law, however her actions may not have supported the idea that she had no other option than to shoot at Gray. Plus, legal experts have questioned why she would only fire a “warning shot” if she felt the use of deadly force was necessary. Alexander also never called police after the incident, which could have also been used against her claim that she feared for her life, especially when a judge considered that Alexander voluntarily continued to visit Gray’s home after she agreed to the no-contact restriction in her bail contract.
‘Stand Your Ground’ explained
The “Stand Your Ground” doctrine in can be found in Florida Statute § 776.013(3) (2012). Here are some key parts of the legislation:
§ 776.013. Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm
(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
The “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida essentially gives individuals the right to protect themselves or others from serious bodily harm or death, and it gives them the right to use deadly force if no other non-lethal options are available. Most states give people this right within their own home, but Florida permits individuals to stand their ground anywhere they have a right to be without requiring them to retreat first.
In Florida, you can use deadly force anywhere as long as you:
–Are not engaged in an unlawful activity
–Are being attacked in a place you have a right to be
–Reasonably believe that your life and safety is in danger as a result of an overt act or perceived threat committed by someone else toward you.
A “Stand Your Ground” hearing works differently than other hearings, requiring the defendant to prove he or she was entitled to use deadly force. The defense must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the person was entitled to use the force. So essentially they must prove the defendant’s innocence.
The judge in Alexander’s case found it wasn’t proven that the law applied to her circumstance. Alexander even said herself that she simply fired a “warning shot,” which some experts say disputes the idea that she was in fear for her life. The judge stated it appeared Alexander fired the shot out of anger, not fear.
Florida’s “10-20-Life” law is what landed Alexander in prison for 20 years.
Alexander was charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Knowing the mandatory sentencing for that particular charge, state prosecutors offered her a plea deal of only three years in prison, but Alexander chose to let a jury of her peers decide her fate. This is where Florida’s sentencing laws come into play and leave essentially no room for a judge to use his or her own discretion regarding sentencing when a defendant is convicted of particular crimes.
Florida’s “10-20-Life” law requires courts to impose a minimum of 10 years, 20 years or 25 years to life in prison for certain felony convictions involving the use orattempted use of a firearm or other deadly weapon. So in the case of aggravated assault with a firearm, the court must impose the mandatory minimum sentence that is already set out by law – 20 years.
According to Florida law, aggravated assault is an assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill; or, with intent to commit a felony.
“As far as the sentence is concerned, she was charged with a 20-minimum mandatory [crime], and they offered her a deal to take the three [years], she said no,” Kuritz told Politan. “It’s not being penalized for going to trial. You go to trial and that’s what your charge is that you can be convicted of, you know that before you go. It’s not being penalized for going to trial, you had an opportunity to choose less time, chose not to, you rolled the dice, you lost, and unfortunately it’s 20 years,” Kuritz said.
“I hate the ’10-20-Life’ statute, but that’s a question for the legislature, not Angela Corey and not the judge in this case,” Kuritz added.
It took a jury of her peers only 12 minutes to find Alexander guilty on three counts of aggravated assault after firing a shot toward her husband and his two children.
“I’m a former prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer now, a 12-minute verdict means that case was so overwhelming,” Kuritz said. “The defense attorney and [Alexander] should have realized what they were up against and taken the three-year deal. If the jury comes back in 12 minutes, that’s a slam-dunk. You have no defense. There was nothing for them to discuss.”
Whether she deserved 20 years in prison wasn’t up to the jury to decide. The jury’s job is not to determine a defendant’s punishment, but only to find him or her guilty or not guilty of the charges presented in court. Punishment is set by law.
In Florida’s case, harsh gun laws mean harsh sentences, whether or not they fit the individual circumstance.
TIMELINE of Marissa Alexander Case
- August 1, 2010: Nine days after giving birth to a premature daughter, Marissa Alexander was attacked by her abusive estranged husband at their shared home. She writes, “In an unprovoked jealous rage, my husband violently confronted me while using the restroom. He assaulted me, shoving, strangling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing all while I begged for him to leave.” He attacked her while his sons were in the home. Marissa retrieved her lawfully registered gun and fired a warning shot upwards into a wall to prevent him from beating her to death. No one was injured by her warning shot.
- February 10, 2011: Alexander’s incarceration begins.
- August 17, 2011: Alexander was denied Stand Your Ground immunity from prosecution.
- May 11, 2012: Alexander was found guilty of three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and received a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
- July 10, 2013: Marissa Alexander was denied bond pending her appeal of the guilty verdict.
- September 26, 2013: Marissa Alexander successfully appealed the 2012 trial, the guilty verdict was overturned, and she was given the right to a new trial. The appellate court ruled that the jury instructions put too much of a burden on Alexander. “The defendant’s burden is only to raise a reasonable doubt concerning self-defense,” a three-judge panel ruled. “The defendant does not have the burden to prove the victim guilty of the aggression defended against beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, the appellate court did not overturn the 2012 court decision to deny Marissa Alexander a Stand Your Ground immunity from prosecution.
- October 31, 2013: Alexander’s re-trial was scheduled for March 31, 2014.
- November 27, 2013: Alexander was released on bond the night before Thanksgiving. She spent 1,021 days in prison. She is currently under house arrest with special conditions, including requiring her to post a $200,009 bond, remain under the supervision of the Pretrial Service Program (PCP) at all times, be subject to 24/7 electronic monitoring, and remain in home detention until the completion of her case.
- January 7, 2014: State Prosecutor Angela Corey filed a motion to revoke Alexander’s bond release, claiming that Alexander violated the conditions of her release. Alexander’s legal team filed a response to the motion stating that the correctional staff supervising Alexander’s bond release confirmed that Alexander complied with all of the conditions of her bond release and is not in violation of her bond. The hearing is scheduled for January 10, 2014.
- January 10, 2014: State Prosecutor Angela Corey’s motion to revoke Marissa Alexander’s bond release was denied and Marissa remains on “home detention,” but with more restrictive conditions.
- January 30, 2014: Alexander’s trial was postponed to July 28, 2014.
- March 1, 2014: The Florida Times-Union reported that Angela Corey is seeking a 60 year sentence for Marissa Alexander if Alexander is found guilty in the July 28th trial. Corey argued that the mandatory minimum statute required Alexander to serve three 20 year sentences consecutively rather than concurrently, tripling the mandatory minimum to 60 years.
- March 14, 2014: Alexander’s legal team filed a motion requesting a new Stand Your Ground hearing.
- May 16, 2014: Judge James Daniel did not issue a ruling on Alexander’s motion for a new Stand Your Ground hearing. He said he would do so in June and he is accepting written arguments through the month of May. Alexander’s trial is still scheduled for July 28, 2014.
- June 10, 2014: Judge Daniel postponed Marissa Alexander’s trial to December 8, 2014, with jury selection beginning on December 1st. The reason given was that the judge and her defense team wanted more time to see how the recent changes in the Stand Your Ground law will impact her case. Marissa’s next court date is scheduled for August 1st when the judge is expected to render a decision about whether she will get a new Stand Your Ground hearing.
- June 21, 2014: Changes to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law went into effect. Changes include expanding the law to cover warning shots. Marissa Alexander’s case is cited as an inspiration for the reform.
- July 21, 2014: Marissa Alexander was denied a new Stand Your Ground hearing, which means she will not receive immunity from prosecution and must defend herself again in a new trial. Her new trial is scheduled to begin December 8, 2014, with jury selection beginning on December 1st.
- November 24, 2014: Marissa Alexander accepted a plea deal with the State of Florida. The plea deal includes time served (1,030 days), an additional 65 days in Duval County Jail which will begin today, and two years of probation serving house detention while wearing a surveillance monitor. Read Free Marissa Now’s official statement. She will be in jail until January 27, 2015, which is the date of her next hearing.
- January 27, 2015: Marissa Alexander was released from prison today. The State Attorney’s office tried to extend Marissa Alexander’s sentence to an additional two years probation on top of the two years of house detention in the plea agreement, but they failed. Alexander intends to go to school to become a paralegal.
UPDATE: November 15, 2015
Judge to Allow Prior Abuse Allegations in Marissa Alexander’s Retrial
Her defense team wants to hear testimony by two former girlfriends of her estranged husband in an effort to demonstrate a pattern of domestic abuse on his part.
In a move that could bolster 34-year-old Marissa Alexander’s case, a judge ruled this week that evidence of prior alleged acts of domestic violence against other women by her estranged husband would be allowed at her December retrial, First Coast News reports.
Circuit Judge James Daniel on Wednesday stipulated certain conditions in the ruling, including requiring Alexander to testify about Rico Gray’s abusive treatment, the news service writes. Her testimony would set the stage for defense attorneys to call an ex-wife and two former girlfriends of Gray’s—all of whom say he was abusive and whom Gray previously admitted abusing, the report says.
The judge, however, expressed some concern about allowing the testimony and placed limits on it. He also limited the number of people who can testify to a specific act of abuse, First Coast says. He said that any testimony on prior abuse must be used to show a pattern of behavior, not simply to demonstrate bad character or propensity to violence, the report says.
The testimony could shore up Alexander’s case. She was convicted and sentenced in 2012 to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot during a confrontation with Gray. The conviction was overturned on appeal, reports say.
Now Florida State Attorney Angela Corey is seeking a 60-year sentence for Alexander for firing a shot in the direction of Gray and two of his children from previous relationships. Alexander is charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a weapon and is asserting she fired the shot in self-defense because Gray had just beaten her and was about to beat her again, according to Jacksonville.com.
Gray has denied abusing Alexander before the shots were fired and said he was leaving the house when the shooting occurred happened, the report says.
Her case has generated widespread attention, with many supporters viewing Alexander as a domestic violence victim who should not face criminal charges. Free Marissa Now group supporters told News4Jax they plan to continue to fight for her freedom until she is free. They said she was a victim of domestic violence and was protecting herself.
Alexander’s attorney, Bruce Zimet, is hoping for a better outcome in the retrial.
“We think she was justified in using the actions that she did on the day in question,” he said, according to First Coast News.
Read more at News4Jax and First Coast News.
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UPDATE: March 4, 2014
Prosecutors Now Seeking a 60-Year Sentence for Marissa Alexander’s Alleged Warning Shot
Marissa Alexander, the black woman who was sentenced in Florida to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at a husband who was allegedly abusing her, starts her retrial in July. Except now she may be facing up to 60 years in prison if convicted again. The prosecutor announced this week that she would be seeking the maximum sentence of 20 years for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon—one for her husband and two for his children who were in the room at the time—to be served consecutively. These are the same charges she was found guilty of the first time, but the judge in that case ruled that she should serve the sentences concurrently.
Alexander’s case drew a lot of attention last year because of its unsettling contrast to a different Florida shooting trial, that of George Zimmerman, in which Zimmerman successfully argued that he had to shoot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was running a quick errand on foot, because he felt Martin was a danger to him. Zimmerman actually killed Martin but did not get convicted, whereas Alexander did not kill anyone and has argued convincingly that she was being chased and abused by her husband in the house. Alexander is a black woman, however, and Zimmerman is not—though his victim was also black—and critics of the two cases are suggesting those race and gender differences might be carrying more weight than the actual evidence and severity of the respective crimes.
In Alexander’s original trial, the jury was instructed that she had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that her husband, Rico Gray, had battered her. That’s why her original conviction was thrown out, as Gray wasn’t actually the person on trial and Alexander wasn’t actually prosecuting him but defending herself. As I wrote last year, Judge James H. Daniel ordered a retrial, arguing that Alexander had been held to too high a standard to prove self-defense. Hopefully, the jury will get better instructions this time around, but there’s still reason for Alexander’s supporters to be very concerned. One of the most aggravating aspects of these kinds of self-defense cases is that not killing someone can often put you in a worse position in front of a jury. Zimmerman killed the sole eyewitness to his crime, making it far easier for him to tell his story without any fear of contradiction. In his original deposition, Gray basicallytold the same story as Alexander: He was chasing her around the house, that he knew she couldn’t escape through the garage, and that he was approaching her and refusing to leave when she shot the gun in the air. But his story has changed a number of times before and since then, making it easier for prosecutor Angela Corey (also the prosecutor in the Zimmerman case) to paint Alexander as the aggressor in this incident.
Corey’s office also prosecuted Michael Dunn, who, like Zimmerman, shot an unarmed black teenager after an encounter that he provoked. Dunn was found guilty of multiple charges of attempted murder for unloading his gun at a carful of teenagers after confronting them about playing their music loudly while they stopped at a convenience store, but Corey’s office didn’t successfully obtain a conviction for the murder of Jordan Davis, the one teenager who was killed in the incident. As with George Zimmerman, the jurors were convinced that Dunn felt afraid enough of Davis that he had to kill him, though apparently not the rest of the kids. It’s hard for outsiders not to notice a pattern here, where not shooting someone seems to get you in more trouble in the state of Florida than shooting to kill.
UPDATE : January 10. 2014
Home › US Politics › Justice ›
FLORIDA: COURT REBUFFS PROSECUTOR WHO LOST ZIMMERMAN CASE AND UPHOLDS MARISSA ALEXANDER’S BOND RELEASE
Corey, who lost Zimmerman case, wanted Alexander back in jail
Today, the court upheld Marissa Alexander’s bond release, which means she is allowed to continue her house arrest and remain with her children and family until her new trial begins on March 31st.
State Prosecutor Angela Corey filed a motion alleging that Marissa Alexander broke the conditions of her release by making unauthorized trips outside her home. Yet, Alexander’s legal team presented proof that the Correctional Service Counselor who supervised Alexander’s house arrest authorized every trip listed in the State’s motion and the Counselor asserts that Alexander is not in violation of her release.
This motion is another example of Angela Corey’s on-going abusive harassment of Marissa Alexander which amounts to a pattern of emotional and psychological abuse.
Free Marissa Now member, Aleta Alston-Toure says: “While we are relieved that Corey’s motion was denied, we must ask the question, why is Angela Corey targeting rather than supporting Marissa Alexander, a victim of domestic violence who defended her life after her husband strangled her and threatened to have her killed?”
In 2010, Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot to defend her life during an attack from her abusive estranged husband, causing no injuries. Yet, Angela Corey prosecuted Alexander, who was found guilty and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years. That verdict has since been overturned and there is a new trial scheduled to begin on March 31st.
Alston-Toure adds: “Instead of being an ally to Alexander, the state continues to abuse her, including threatening to keep her from her children, minimizing the violence she experienced, making false accusations, and suggesting that her life is not worth saving. Corey has taken advantage of every opportunity to undermine Alexander’s credibility and criminalize her character in an attempt to sway public opinion before Alexander’s new trial. Corey uses these manipulative media strategies to try to distract the public from the fact that her case has no actual merit. The court should limit the use of smear tactics ahead of a trial.”
Corey’s actions are rallying the growing movement of people in Jacksonville and all over the world who stand with Marissa Alexander.
Adds Alston-Toure: “Supporters will not be intimidated by Corey’s desperate tactics and will continue to demand that this extreme harassment by Angela Corey’s office cease and the case against Marissa Alexander be dropped immediately. We are more committed than ever,” said Alston-Toure. The movement has raised over $22,000 from hundreds of donors who donated to Marissa Alexander’s legal defense fund with love and solidarity. We will increase our efforts to educate communities on how institutional racism in the criminal justice system can further victimize and entrap victims of domestic violence. We will walk with Marissa Alexander every step of the way until she is fully acquitted. We also encourage supporters everywhere to continue to donate to her legal defense fund to ensure that her acquittal is finally won.
Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is a national grassroots campaign led by a core of organizers representing the African American/Black Women’s Cultural Alliance, New Jim Crow Movement – Jacksonville, Radical Women, INCITE!, and the Pacific Northwest Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander.
For more information, see www.FreeMarissaNow.org
– See more at: http://www.blackstarnews.com/us-politics/justice/florida-court-rebuffs-prosecutor-who-lost-zimmerman-case-and-upholds-marissa#sthash.rLP0Fcby.4LXp3DR5.dpuf
UPDATE: November 28, 2013
Date: November 28, 2013
From: Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign
Aleta Alston-Touré 904-631-1674
For Immediate Release
Statement to the Press
Victory! Marissa Alexander home for Thanksgiving
Words cannot express the relief and joy of everyone in the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign that Marissa Alexander is home with her family this Thanksgiving Day. Ms. Alexander has been released on bond until a verdict is reached in her new trial that begins March 31, 2014. We hope the decision means that the Florida justice system has relented in its vindictive, hostile and racist legal assault on this African American mother of three. Ms. Alexander has been victimized twice — once by her abusive ex-husband and again by the state of Florida, which has stolen nearly three years from her life for an act of self-defense that injured no one.
We are thrilled that Ms. Alexander will be able to prepare for her new trial amid the support and love of her children and family from whom she has been separated far too long.
But the battle is not over. It is well documented that black women and other marginalized people are likely to be criminalized, prosecuted, and incarcerated while trying to navigate and survive the conditions of violence in their lives. This is especially true for black women who are subjected to racist stereotypes that paint them as overly aggressive and unworthy. The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign will keep organizing, educating and keeping the pressure on to make sure that Marissa’s new trial is fair, sensitive to her situation as a black woman experiencing domestic abuse, and successful!
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is more determined than ever to win complete exoneration for Marissa Alexander. We have launched the Marissa Alexander Freedom Fund campaign to raise $20,000 by the end of the year to help pay for legal costs of the new trial. Donors can give at tiny.cc/freedomfundraiser.
Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is a grassroots campaign led by a core of organizers representing the African American/Black Women’s Cultural Alliance, New Jim Crow Movement – Jacksonville, Radical Women, INCITE!, and the Pacific Northwest Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander. To arrange an interview, please contact FreeMarissaNow@gmail.com or call 904-631-1674 (Jacksonville), 443-812-9503 (Washington, DC area), 206-473-0630 (Seattle)
UPDATE: November 26, 2013
Fla. Woman Sentenced to 20 Yrs. for Firing Warning Shot—RELEASED
Marissa Alexander Freed While Awaiting Trial
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida woman awaiting a new trial in a controversial “stand your ground” case is free on bond.
First Coast News (http://fcnews.tv/18q19sa) reports that Marissa Alexander was released from jail Wednesday. According to the Duval County Clerk of Court, she must remain under house arrest and electronic monitoring while awaiting trial.
In 2012, Alexander was sentenced to a mandatory 20-year prison sentence for firing what she insisted was a warning shot during a fight with her husband. She tried to invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law but the judge threw out her self-defense claim, noting that she could have run out of the house to escape her husband but instead got the gun and went back inside
An appeals court ruled in September that the judge in the case gave improper jury instructions, and a new trial has been set for next year.
Alexander’s supporters, including the NAACP and advocates for victims of domestic violence, have compared the case to the trial of George Zimmerman, who recently was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Both cases have brought into question the state’s “stand your ground” law, which generally allows people to use deadly force if they feel threatened.
Alexander, who had never been arrested before, has said she fired a bullet at a wall in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. No one was hurt, but the judge in the case said he was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison after she was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Alexander had rejected a plea deal that would have resulted in a three-year prison sentence and chose to go to trial. A jury deliberated 12 minutes before convicting her.
Alexander was also charged with domestic battery four months after the shooting in another assault on her husband. She pleaded no contest and was sentenced to time served.
State Attorney Angela Corey, who oversaw the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, has stood by the handling of Alexander’s case. Corey said she believes that Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.
Click for related articles:
“Woman Sentenced to 20 Years for Firing Warning Shot Receives New Trial”
“Blacks Who Stand Their Ground Often Imprisoned”
“Unbelievable: Fla. ‘Stand Your Ground’ Defense Rejected for Mother Only Firing “Warning Shot””
Woman Sentenced For Firing Alleged ‘Warning Shot’ At Her Husband Gets Released
11/28/13 03:21 PM ET EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville woman awaiting a new trial in a controversial “stand your ground” case is free on bond.
First Coast News (http://fcnews.tv/18q19sa) reports that Marissa Alexander was released from jail Wednesday. According to the Duval County Clerk of Court, she must remain under house arrest while awaiting trial.
In 2012, Alexander was sentenced to a mandatory 20-year prison sentence for firing what she insisted was a warning shot during a fight with her husband. She tried to invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law, but the judge threw out her self-defense claim.
An appeals court ruled in September that the judge in the case gave improper jury instructions.
Alexander says she fired a bullet at a wall in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her.
Updated: Marissa Alexander Is Given No Bail Today – New Evidence Comes To Court
Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot to ward off her abusive husband, was granted no bail Wednesday afternoon in a Jacksonville courtroom. The mother of three will most likely not get to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with her children, as the ‘deciding judge’ opted to make no decision and set another hearing for January 15, 2012 – pending of course, that he does, or does not, change his mind.In 2010, just days after giving birth, Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot in self-defense to keep her abusive husband, Rico Gray, from attacking her. In his deposition, Gray who has a history of abusing Alexander, admitted it, stated he intended to hurt her had she not fired the warning shot, and said she did the right thing. He also said Alexander did not aim he gun at him. Gray then changed his story once the case went to trial. He walked out a free man – Marissa Alexander, the battered wife, received 20 years. The Florida Stand Your Ground Law did not work for Alexander because she fired a warning shot. Had she shot and killed Rico Gray that day, she would have most likely served no time at all.
My source who was in the courtroom today, reported new evidence has been brought forth – a text message of Rico Gray asking Marissa to come over for sex while there was an order of protection. Rico Gray claims Marissa should not be let out on bond because he is afraid of Marissa; he fears/feared for his life. Does asking her for sex sound like someone who feared for his life?
“I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and . . . I told her, you know, I used to always tell her that, if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you. It was not the first time of ever saying it to her.”~ Rico Gray in his deposition on November 22, 2010.
Again, does this sound like a man fearing for his life?Marissa Alexander’s case has been highly publicized from the start, and the Free Marissa Now campaign has grown throughout social media. The case was catapulted into even more national spotlight, following the George Zimmerman case. In July 2013, Zimmerman was set free after killing teenager, Trayvon Martin, even though Zimmerman was the aggressor. Ironically, the same state attorney that failed to successfully prosecute George Zimmerman, is the same attorney that sent Marissa Alexander to prison. State Attorney Angela Corey ‘twisted the knife’ by refusing to drop Alexander’s case,even after it was overturned in September.
Unless something changes, it doesn’t look as though Marissa Alexander and her three children will be having happy holidays, as she awaits a new bail hearing, and then a whole new trial in March 2014. Supposedly the next trial will be different. This time, Florida courts say the burden of proof will be placed upon them rather than Marissa Alexander. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work, Florida?
If you’re in an abusive relationship, or know someone who may be, there is help: Call: 800-799-SAFE/National Domestic Violence Hotline or Call: 800-656-HOPE/RAINN (Rape,Abuse, & Incest National Network)
ABOUT MARISSA ALEXANDER’S INJUSTICE
Case No: 2010-CF-8579
Division: CR-GApril 3, 2012Dear Supporters:On August 1 2010, my premature baby girl, born nine days earlier, was in the Baptist South N.I.C.U. fighting for her life and I would too be fighting for my life in my own home against an attack from my husband.My name is Marissa Alexander, I am a mother of three children, but at the present time, I am not able to be with them due to the following circumstances. I am currently sitting in the Pretrial Detention Facility in Jacksonville FL, Duval County awaiting a sentence for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with no intent to harm.Before my life changed drastically on that August afternoon, I was in the perilous position of leaving an abusive relationship with my husband who has history of violence and documented domestic abuse towards women.Our history included one which required me to place an injunction for protection against violence and was active during the month of August 2010.In an unprovoked jealous rage, my husband violently confronted me while using the restroom.He assaulted me, shoving, strangling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing all while I begged for him to leave. After a minute or two of trying to escape, I was able to make it to the garage where my truck was parked, but in my haste to leave I realized my keys were missing. I tried to open the garage but there was a mechanical failure. I was unable to leave, trapped in the dark with no way out.For protection against further assault I retrieved my weapon; which is registered and I have a concealed weapon permit. Trapped, no phone, I entered back into my home to either leave through another exit or obtain my cell phone.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, “Bitch 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. The police arrived and I was taken into custody.I was devastated and would continue to be for months following the incident. I had to appear in court all the way up until trial as I plead not guilty and know that I acted in self-defense.I believe my actions saved my life or prevented further harm, but preserved that of my husband who was completely irrational, extremely violent, and unpredictable that day.Florida has a self-defense law and it includes the right to stand your ground. Below are the facts of my concern with the incorrect way the law was applied and ultimately the injustice in my case.· The alleged victim, my husband, under sworn statement in November 2010, admitted he was the aggressor, threatened my life and was so enraged he didn’t know what he would do.· The alleged victim, my husband, was arrested for domestic violence two times, once for abuse against me. The attack against me was so violent; I ended up in the hospital.· Prior to my arrest, I told the office I was in fear for my life due to the prior violence against me. I also told the officer there was a domestic injunction in place to protect me against abuse from the alleged victim. This information was written in detail by the officer in my arrest report, but ignored for some unknown reason.· In July of 2011, a hearing was held, where I along with the alleged victims testified as it relates to the stand your ground law and its immunity from prosecution.
· After the hearing, Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt denied my motion, citing that I could have exited the house thru the master bedroom window, front door, and/or sliding glass back door. The law specifically states: No duty to retreat.
· My attorney entered a standing objection on the record to the ruling and we proceeded to trial.
· During that time, Angela Corey, our State Attorney met with the alleged victims. I also along with my attorney met with Angela Corey, John Guy, and then prosecutor Christen Luikart. I justified my actions to them and the truth as I have told it has remained the same.
· Knowing our prior domestic abuse history, Angela Corey was hard pressed for the minimum mandatory, which provisions allow for prosecution to wave those stipulations. I was not guilty, nor did I believe that was fair and just under the circumstances. She also allowed for those same provisions in the State vs. Vonda Parker, same charges different circumstances which did not include self-defense.
· Florida uses a law commonly known as 10-20-life as a sentencing guideline when a felony takes place with the use of a weapon. Under this statute, my felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to harm carries a twenty year mandatory sentence.
· Stand your ground law has been applied in multiple recent incidents, the following is just a couple of incidents. Carl Kroppman Jr was allowed to use this law to avoid being arrested/charged during a road rage incident on the Buckman Bridge in Jacksonville, FL in August of 2011. Marqualle Woolbright of Ocala, FL avoided murder charges due to the stand your ground law when he shoot and killed someone.
I am a law abiding citizen and I take great pride in my liberty, rights, and privileges as one. I have vehemently proclaimed my innocence and my actions that day. The enigma I face since that fateful day I was charged through trial, does the law cover and apply to me too?
A step further and more importantly is in light of recent news, is justice for all include everyone, regardless of gender, race or aristocratic dichotomies. I simply want my story heard, reviewed and the egregious way in which my case was handled from start to finish serve as an eye opener for all and especially those responsible for upholding judicial affairs.
The threat that day was very real, imminent, and the battery on me occurred minutes before the decision I made to protect myself. That decision was a last resort, necessary and a reaction to the continued threat on my life. I am a believer that grace allowed for my response to be carried out in a non-lethal manner. This prevented the imminent threat and harm a non-fatal tactic, but not against an unknown attacker, rather my very own husband.
That was by far the most difficult position to be in nine days after giving birth to a six week premature infant. My heart goes out for my two stepsons and always has had a hurt and sincere empathy for them being subjected innocently to that trauma.The law states that I was justified in standing my ground and meeting force with force up to including deadly force, but political views and concerns states otherwise in the 4th circuit court.
So my last questions and valid concerns are what was I supposed to do that day and the stand your ground law who is it for?
Lincoln B. Alexander Jr on behalf of Marissa Alexander
These people might be interested in hearing from you about Marissa’s case.
Eric Holder, Attorney General
of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Department of Justice Main Switchboard – 202-514-2000
Office of the Attorney General Public Comment Line – 202-353-1555
Email contract: Web mail/: http://www.justice.gov/contact-us.html
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Office of Attorney General Pam Bondi
State of Florida
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
52 East 125th Street
New York, NY 10035
Rev. Al Sharpton: http://al-sharpton.com/
Rev. Jesse Jackson
Phon400 T Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Rainbow Push Coalition
930 East 50th Street
Chicago, IL 60615-2702
Phone: 773-373-3366 ____________ (AH for AS)
Florida Senator Audrey Gibson
101 E. Union Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Senate VOIP: 40100
FAX (904) 359-2532
CONGRESSWOMAN CORRINE BROWN:
Washington, DC Office
Representative Corrine Brown (D-FLA)
2336 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-0123
Fax: (202) 225-2256
Representative Corrine Brown
101 E. Union Street, Suite 202
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Phone: (904) 354-1652
Fax: (904) 354-2721
5422 Soutel Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32219
(904) 764-7578 Fax# (904) 764-7572
Respective states will not respond to non-resident requests
but at least they are getting the message that not only is the
State of Florida concerned with this case, the whole nation
and the world is, which usually changes how they go about
their business as usual.
Also if you can boil down your thoughts to just one or two small paragraphs then I would use a plain card stock post card. Post cards take shorter time to the White House as they do not need secondary scans for Anthrax before they arrive at D.C. as do letters in envelopes.
Florida A&M University, student,
Our Common Ground Radio Show with Janice Graham:
And then there is the brave lady herself to write to:
Marissa Alexander DC# J46944
11120 NW Gainesville Rd
Ocala, Fl 34482-1479
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
A complete exoneration for Marissa D. Alexander of all charges.
On August 1, 2010, nine days after giving birth Marissa Alexander was attacked by her ex-husband Rico Gray. The Florida mother of three, Marissa fired a “warning shot” into the ceiling of her home in defense. No one was injured during the incident also evidence shows that Marissa fired the shot in the direction away from her family. During her attack Marissa “had no legal duty to retreat.” She believed the state would support her legal claim under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statutes. Marissa was condemned to a 20-year sentence under Florida’s 10-20-Life law. According to her attacker’s deposition that already listed a history of protective orders against him Mr. Gray admits to prior documented cases of domestic violence against Marissa that the courts never considered.
http://www.change.org/petitions/free-marissa-alexander (PETITION: USA only)
http://www.blackyouthproject.com/2012/04/supporters-l (PETITION: USA only)
(PETITION : ???)
In August 2010, Marissa Alexander defended herself from further violence by her abusive estranged husband in their home by firing a warning shot toward the ceiling. No one was injured by the shot fired to save her life. Without bond to care for her premature nursing daughter, in May 2012, Marissa was wrongly convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Under Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing law, Marissa was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison. Marissa had a restraining order against the serial abuser, a legally licensed gun and permit, and no criminal history. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law did not work for her in the way it worked for Trayvon Martin’s killer which raises serious concerns of discrimination against Marissa. It appears that stereotypes about Black women project them as aggressors even when defending their lives upon deadly attack. Something has to be done regarding all women who defend themselves against their abusers. Too often they receive little understanding and sympathy from the systems charged with demonstrating justice.
Listen LIVE to Marissa in her own words. OUR COMMON GROUND May 11, 2012 INTERVIEW WITH Marissa Alexander from her jail, hours following her sentencing OCG
SIGN THE PETITION
Florida Governor Rick Scott
Free Marissa Alexander in Florida State Prison
Monday, July 15, 2013
Who Will March for Marissa Alexander?
by Marissa Jackson
On the morning after the Morning After, the racial tension in this country could be popped with a needle. If the prevailing narrative is to be believed, Black America is furious, outraged and depressed about George Zimmerman’s acquittal while White America is, through the mouthpiece that is Ann Coulter, screaming “Hallelujah” in jubilant celebration that white supremacy in America has won one more battle.
In reality, the reaction to the verdict has been much more complex, perhaps too complex for news cycles who simply don’t have the time for in-depth reporting and disaggregation if they are to successfully catch the next big story. The massive Bastille Day protests, in the streets of New York City and San Francisco, on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, represent an outrage and dismay that has transcended race, creed, sex, gender, sexual orientation, class and nationality. While post-racial America, it has been proven, is a cruel and violent myth that is perpetuated in order to further disarm racial minorities even in the sphere of discourse, multicultural America is a very real reality.
Much of the outrage may be coming from a sense of disappointment and betrayal that the nearly all-white Southern jury, the victim-shaming and posthumous character assassination of Trayvon Martin, the impunity, the right-wing glee over the death of a black teenager should not be possible in Obama’s America. According to the post-racial script, racism died on November 4, 2008. Every bad thing that happens to black Americans now can be attributed to some internal failing of the black community. Racism is over. Get over it.
Then again, much of the outrage may be coming from a culmination of frustrations and confusions that people of all backgrounds have felt since Barack Obama’s election. It has become painfully clear to them that post-racial America is a lie, that racism has become more potent, more angry, more violent since 2008, justified as defenses of the country’s American values. These frustrations mounted when Trayvon Martin was assassinated and over 40 days passed before George Zimmerman was even arrested.
They became more potent with every racist assault– the Birther movement; the banning of African-American hairstyles by an Ohio school; Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s crusade against Latinos and Latinas; the arrest of 14 year old Tremaine McMillan for allegedly giving Miami police officers “dehumanizing stares”; the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on employment rights, affirmative action, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and voting rights. For many, perhaps the not guilty verdict was simply the final straw, and that is why broad swaths of the American population are now mobilizing in memory of Trayvon Martin, in protest of George Zimmerman and the Stand Your Ground law, and in disgust at what feels like the pervasiveness and permanence of systematic racism in the United States.
Where was this outrage in 2012, when then-31 year old Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment for firing a warning shot in order to defend herself against her abusive husband? How many people had even heard of her until yesterday, when stories of her conviction went viral, causing many to think she had been convicted on the same weekend as Zimmerman was acquitted? Why is her case only considered in comparison to Trayvon Martin’s killing? Why is there still no petition on her behalf, still no midnight marches through Union Square in her name?
Women’s rights activists have long complained about the indifference that society and the media have towards women’s issues. Black women have long noted that there is an exception to this reality–that young white girls who go missing are highlighted in the news for days and days (this phenomenon is known by social scientists as missing white woman syndrome), while missing black girls and women go entirely unnoticed. But not only by the mainstream media and white America, but also by black American men and women. The NYPD’s stop and frisk policy is controversial and newsworthy because it is bound up with black and Latino masculinity, but what of the systematic underreporting of sex crimes by the NYPD? What of the all too pervasive issue ofstreet sex harassment in the inner-cities by black men of black women? Where were the protests for Romona Moore? Where is the outrage there?
I, too, stewed and brewed in the immediate wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. I worried a lot, as I always have, about my two burly black younger brothers, knowing that their prestigious college degrees and multicultural groups of friends will not save them should some vigilante feel intimidated by their existence and decide to shoot them to death. I worry about my husband, who speaks mostly French and recently arrived in the United States from a country where blackness is the norm–what would happen to him if he were stopped and frisked? Would he know how to behave, or would he freak out, unintentionally committing suicide-by-cop? But I also felt in my stomach a deep grief for black womanhood, and a jealousy of sorts, that our oppressions will never mean as much as those of our brothers. I felt absolutely browbeaten over the sobering reality that if Trayvon Martin’s life meant nothing, than the lives of my sister and I mean less than nothing–even to members of my own community.
The stereotypes about black women and men are not so overwhelming different. Black men are assumed to be criminal. They are stereotyped as dangerous, as sexual threats to white women, as intimidating. Even when they are slight and young, they are viewed as big and bad. Their mere existence is a violence upon social order. They must be controlled, and put down if necessary.
Black women are also assumed to be criminals, and we are also assumed to be shiftless welfare queens, exploiting a system into which we invest nothing. We are stereotyped as angry, emasculating, intimidating. Even when we are physically fit, we are viewed as fat and sloppy. We are stereotyped as sexually insatiable, wild and exotic in the bedroom. Our mere existence is viewed as a cantankerous, loud and unruly disruption. We, too, must be controlled, and neutered if necessary. Consider the characterizations of Rachel Jeantel, of Serena Williams, of First LadyMichelle Obama. Consider the recent revelation that California prisons sterilized up to 250 women–many of them black and brown–without approval between 1996 and 2010. Consider the relative silence from just about everyone when the story broke just a few days before the Zimmerman verdict was announced: Twitter did not go ablaze, the NAACP did not send around a petition, and there were no marches.
I have dedicated much of my professional life to the advancement of human rights, and in particular, to lobby African Americans–and all Americans–to engage the international human rights community. As Professor Carol Anderson helps to explain in Eyes Off the Prize, that there is very little human rights discourse and culture in the United States is not quite accidental. In the United States, we talk about civil rights, and as soon as the words “civil rights” are uttered, blackness (likely embodied as Dr. Martin Luther King) is imagined.
In post-racial America, the concept of civil rights is sneered at, associated with race-baiting and the playing of the race card by ungrateful gimme gimme African-Americans who want handouts instead of a chance to stand on their own feet. It is passe, retrograde, and racist in reverse. It is easily ignored. Meanwhile women’s rights are associated with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Gloria Steinem, and opponents of women’s rights activists label them insultingly as feminazis and lesbians (the latter label assumed to be an insult by the insulter), characterizing them as shrill and frigid and possibly in need of a violent rape to sufficiently pacify them. They, too, are easily disregarded. If black women are to get any attention, would we need a Black Women’s Civil Rights Movement? Given the extreme racism and sexism black women experience from within and without the black community, would such a movement even register on America’s political Richter scale?
The answer to both questions, I believe, is “no”. The last thing that black women, black men, or Americans at large need is more civil rights, at least as civil rights have been imagined and narrated and effectuated up until today. What we need is a complete paradigm shift. What we need are human rights.
Not only have advocates of conservative postracialism and colorblindness pegged the Civil Rights movement to years gone by and subjected well-known black civil rights leaders widely ridicule and dismissal, but they have mountains of state legislation and Supreme Court precedent on their side. Colorblindness–a concept advanced by Dr. King himself 50 years ago in his I Have A Dream speech–is now used against black Americans and other racial minorities as a matter of increasingly settled law and policy.
The American civil rights paradigm itself is hopelessly flawed. The Southern Civil Rights Movement has been irreparably marred by black America’s own demons–misogyny and sexism chief among them. The “I am a Man” campaign was a celebration of black masculinity that was not accompanied by an equivalent celebration of black femininity. More than a few black nationalist leaders mistreated their wives; Eldridge Cleaver famously practiced his rape of white women on black women because he knew that the rape of black women was not considered remarkable or abnormal; Maulana Karenga spent time in prison for viciously torturing a number of black women. The civil rights movement was a bastion of patriarchy, requiring black women to stand behind black men in order to avoid emasculating them, and in so doing, has dehumanized us and underscored our invisibility.
Further, the success of the Southern Civil Rights Movement were largely had in the federal courts, causing black America to look for justice in the courts right up until 6 women pronounced George Zimmerman innocent. This reliance upon the government has stifled greater grassroots, more creative approaches to achieving justice. The reliance upon the courts has necessitated that some cases are heard while others are not. And so, Trayvon Martin became our named plaintiff in 2012, to the exclusion of numerous other stories warranting the nation’s attention and outrage–including Marissa Alexander’s. The chopping down of a young man in his prime–the offense against masculinity–has always been considered more valuable than kidnappings and rapes, murders, sterilizations and wrongful convictions of women of color, by people of all ethnic backgrounds. It has become clear that the civil rights paradigm is simply unsuitable for those of us interested in liberty and justice for all.
Human rights offers to Americans never-before realized possibilities. Human rights encompass civil rights and socioeconomic rights, recognizing that we really cannot have one form of rights without the other. Where civil rights are associated with masculinity, socioeconomic rights–which are largely disregarded and denied by the United States–are associated with femininity. Human rights recognizes that the feminization of poverty is real, and that the realization of the rights to food, health, education, adequate housing are just as important as the rights to vote, freedom from arbitrary arrest, and speech.
Human rights are not a black thing, a white thing, a woman thing, an immigrant thing or a gay thing. Human rights are universal. In the human rights paradigm, racism is not a black problem. Human rights recognize that being black, that being female is not a problem. Human rights recognizes that those who violate a human’s rights–any human’s rights–are the problem, and that violators are to always be held accountable for their violations. Human rights specialize in the interests of the unnamed, unheard, unseen masses rather than picking the case that is the most politically salient, most likely to win, most sexy. In the human rights paradigm, Trayvon Martin does not have to defend himself against George Zimmerman and cable news from the grave; rather, the state has to give account to the world for why its criminal justice system authorizes vigilante white-on-black violence and why it does not better protect women such as Marissa Alexander from domestic violence.
A human rights-based approach to racism in America would take a longitudinal view at American jurisprudence and could potentially hold the assault upon racial minorities by the court and the prison system to be a mass human rights violation. The international community has concerned itself with all the unnamed men and women in the Niger Delta, the thousands of Congolese rape victims, and it has demonstrated a keen interest in the persistence of state-sponsored racial oppression in the United States. Unless we truly wish to languish in the insult of invisibility, with our freedoms, our very breaths, at the mercy of prosecutors, prison physicians, parole boards, and armed neighborhood watch men, we must consider, as Malcolm X suggested decades ago, engaging the global human rights movement and taking our criminals to court. No matter how fervently we black women defend our brothers, sons, husbands, and fathers, it seems certain that under the current paradigm, nobody will ever march for us.
The day after the Zimmerman verdict came down, Melissa Harris Perry reflected upon the relief she felt when she discovered that she was pregnant with a girl and not a boy. In her view, a black girl is safer in the United States than a little black boy. I would submit to her that her opinion is very likely based in her belief in a narrative sustained by politics, some patriarchy, and availability heuristics. Pointing to cases of unlawful acts of violence against black men is easy because crimes against them get attention. We know some of their names: Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Tremaine McMillan, Rodney King, Medgar Evers, Emmitt Till, Martin Luther King, Trayvon Martin. Professor Harris Perry could easily be forgiven for believing that being a black girl in America is a walk in the park by comparison–and it is always by comparison, even as the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Church Bombing approaches.
The United States is a very dangerous place for young black men, but at least they have defenders and supporters. I am somewhat encouraged by the widespread outrage expressed over the Zimmerman verdict, because it signifies that unless we are distracted by latest news story or the commencement of football season, that there is a possibility that we will mobilize together as we did in during the 2008 Presidential campaign to make our mark on the world as the United Races of America. But I will never be optimistic until black women become weary of their invisibility and take the steps necessary to march for ourselves, all the way to the General Assembly or the Hague.
And She Gets 20 Years? Read The Deposition Of Marissa Alexander’s Abusive Husband
“I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and . . . I told her, you know, I used to always tell her that, if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you. It was not the first time of ever saying it to her.”~ Rico Gray in his deposition on November 22, 2010.
Those are the words, Marissa Alexander heard the day she fired a warning shot to defend herself from her abusive husband, Rico Gray. She is now serving 20 years in prison – having hurt no one. Below are excerpts from Gray’s depositon, along with commentary by Fred Grimm of the Miami Herald. Rico Gray changed most of his story when he got to court. He suddenly became the ‘victim’. His documented deposition tells the story.
I rarely post this much commentary of another writer in one of my own stories. There are times when the words of others are stronger and deserve to be read/heard. I hope this helps bring more clarity to Marissa Alexander’s case. It’s absurd that she would be sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot, to defend herself from a her abusive husband. It’s outrageous that she would spend even one day in prison after defending herself from a man like this:
Fred Grimm begins:
The ‘victim,’ in this twisted tale of Florida justice, was Rico Gray, a 245-pound Jacksonville truck driver with a proclivity for domestic violence.
The ‘criminal,’ the woman sentenced to 20 years of hard time on May 11, was his wife, Marissa Alexander, five feet, two inches tall and slight enough, as Gray mentioned in his pre-trial deposition, that on two occasions he tossed her from their house without much physical exertion.
“She’s a little person so it doesn’t take much for me to pick her up and tote her out my front door . . . You know, I pretty much picked her up and throwed her out.”
In the months before the incident that sent Marissa to prison, in addition to bodily heaving her out the door, Gray had beaten her, head-butted her in the face while she was pregnant, sent her to the hospital. One of his three arrests on domestic violence charges had been for an attack on Alexander that led to a conviction and probation. On Sept. 30, 2009, a Duval County circuit judge issued an injunction against Gray, ordering him to keep away from Alexander. (In his deposition, Gray said he was previously arrested for striking two other women in the face who, he explained, “wouldn’t shut up.”)
But on August 10, 2010, as Gray approached her in a rage, Alexander (a software firm employee with an MBA and no previous criminal record) fired a pistol into the air. A jury convicted her of aggravated assault with a firearm and, under Florida’s draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the presiding judge was left with no discretion. So she got 20 years. Her thug husband got custody of their baby son.
Women’s groups, anti-domestic violence activists, the Jacksonville NAACP, U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown and advocates for sentencing reform have all issued outraged statements condemning the verdict and the sentence.
But it was the words of Gray himself, in his Nov. 22, 2010, deposition, that best illustrated the perversity of his wife’s prosecution and conviction and unyielding prison sentence.
Sitting in the State Attorney’s Office, Gray described how he had erupted in anger when he discovered text messages on his wife’s phone to another man. (Alexander had moved out, but had come home briefly that day to retrieve her clothes.)
“I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and . . . I told her, you know, I used to always tell her that, if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you. It was not the first time of ever saying it to her.”
Gray said he had intimated that he had unsavory friends who would carry out vengeful acts on his behalf. “I ain’t going to lie. I been on the streets before I started driving trucks, you know, so I know a lot of people and she knows I know a lot of people.”
As they argued, he recounted, Marissa retreated into the bathroom. “I don’t recall breaking the door open, but I know I beat on it hard enough where it could have been broken open. Probably had some dents.”
Once he managed to get inside, he said he pushed her into the door with enough violence to further damage the door. Did you put your hands around her neck? “Not that particular day. No.”
They struggled. She ran out through the laundry room into the garage. “But I knew she couldn’t leave out of the garage because the garage door was locked.” She came back, he said, with a gun, yelling at him to leave. “I told her I ain’t leaving until you talk to me, I ain’t going nowhere, and so I started walking toward her and she shot in the air.”
He added details. “I start walking toward her, because she was telling me to leave the whole time and, you know, I was cursing and all that.” His two sons by a previous marriage were in the room. “If my kids wouldn’t have been there, I probably would have put my hand on her. Probably hit her. I got five baby mommas and I put my hands on every last one of them, except for one. I physically abused them. Emotionally. You know.”
And then came what should have been the clincher:
“I honestly think she just didn’t want me to put my hands on her anymore so she did what she feel like she have to do to make sure she wouldn’t get hurt, you know. You know, she did what she had to do.”
He said, “The gun was never actually pointed at me. When she raised the gun down and raised it up, you know, the gun was never pointed at me. The fact is, you know . . . she never been violent toward me. I was always the one starting it. If she was violent toward me, it was because she was trying to get me up off her or stop me from doing.”
Gray’s deposition might have read like a confession of a husband charged with domestic violence, but it was Marissa Alexander who was convicted in April after a Duval circuit judge rejected her Stand Your Ground defense.
Duval State Attorney Angela Corey, the same special prosecutor brought in by the governor to oversee the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, dismissed the growing protests against the disproportionate verdict. Corey noted that just a few days before her trial, Alexander had rejected a plea offer that would have sent her to prison for three years instead of 20.
But three years would still seem a harsh sentence for a woman whose crime was to use a firearm to fend off the likes of Rico Gray. “The way I was with women, they was like they had to walk on egg shells around me. They never knew what I was thinking. What I might say . . . What I might do . . . I hit them. Push them.”
(Thank you Fred Grimm.)
I will be covering Marissa Alexander’s case until she is a free woman and reunited with her three children. We can speak out, protest, boycott, petition and vote, until she is released and we have restored some sanity back into the Florida court system.
One way to help is to sign this petition to Florida Governor Rick Scott. You can also email Governor Scott directly. There is a FreeMarissaNow national campaign Facebook page. Let’s take care of this. Let’s get this done, for Marissa, for battered women, and for American democracy.
You can also personally write to Marissa in prison at this address:
500 East Adam St.
Jacksonville, FL 32202
|Leslie Salzillo is an activist, political commentator and visual artist. She began contributing to Liberals Unite in June of 2013.|
Marissa Alexander’s 20-Year Sentence Provokes Fresh Outrage Against George Zimmerman Prosecutor
Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., suggests voters dump ‘cruel’ prosecutor who’s been under fire for years
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Marissa Alexander, the Jacksonville, Fla., mother sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she says was a warning shot at her abusive husband, remains behind bars more than a year after a judge tossed her “Stand Your Ground” defense. But with George Zimmerman’s acquittal Sunday on murder charges, her cause is picking up steam.
Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., is among Alexander’s most vocal supporters. She’s also a fierce critic of State Attorney Angela Corey, the elected prosecutor who presided over both cases.
“I do know that she has shown absolutely no compassion,” Brown told U.S. News. “Where was the common sense? I hate to say this, but you wouldn’t expect this from a female.”
[RELATED: Holder’s ‘Retreat’ Line Upsets Gun Owners]
On July 31, 2010, Alexander – who had given birth days before – fired what she describes as a warning shot during a fight with her husband. Two children were inside the Jacksonville home when she pulled the trigger, but no one was harmed.
Alexander claimed self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows citizens to defend themselves when attacked. But a judge rejected that argument. Alexander was convicted of aggravated assault by a six-person jury and sentenced to 20 years in prison on May 11, 2012. The presiding judge said his hands were tied by state law, which mandates a minimum sentence of 20 years for firing a gun in the commission of a felony.
“It’s hard to believe that a female could get 20 years for firing a warning shot at an abusive husband who beat her,” Brown said. “There was a restraining order the day it happened. She’s a person who had a master’s degree, who worked her way through school.”
Corey threw the book at Alexander after she refused a three-year prison stint as part of a plea deal. The congresswoman remains indignant about the “unbelievable” offer, which she said would have compelled Alexander to sacrifice custody of her newborn and accept a felony conviction.
“She hasn’t seen her baby since [her conviction],” Brown said. “That’s cruel.” Alexander’s family also hasn’t been allowed to see the baby, she said.
[OBAMA: Trayvon Martin Case in DOJ’s Hands]
Brown confronted Corey after the verdict was announced last year. “Three years is not mercy and 20 years is not justice,” an emotional Brown told the prosecutor in a scene videotaped by WJXT-TV, saying a recent murder case ended with a 15-year sentence. “If there ever was a ‘Stand Your Ground’ case, it was this one.”
Corey calmly dismissed the critique.
“Congresswoman, I showed her mercy when I sat down with her,” she said.
In a 2012 interview with The Grio, Corey chided critics and the media for being, in her view, overeager to take Alexander’s side. “A person’s propensity for violence is only one factor that would have allowed her to use ‘Stand Your Ground’ at the moment when she fired,” the prosecutor explained. “If that’s what you’re saying, she can walk into a room and just see him and shoot [based on past abuse].” Corey said there was no physical evidence of a confrontation before the gun fired.
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