Marissa Alexander Facing 60 Years in Prison for Firing a Warning Shot in Self Defense | The Nation

Marissa Alexander Now Faces 60 Years in Prison for Firing a Warning Shot in Self Defense | The Nation.

Florida State Attorney Angela Corey will seek to triple Marissa Alexander’s original prison sentence from twenty to sixty years, effectively a life sentence for the 33-year-old woman, when her case is retried this July, The Florida Times-Union reports.

Alexander was convicted on three charges of aggravated assault in 2012 for firing warning shots in the direction of Rico Gray, her estranged husband, and his two children. No one was hurt. Alexander’s attorneys argued that she had the right to self-defense after Gray physically assaulted and threatned to kill her the day of the shooting. In a deposition, Gray confessed to a history of abusing women, including Alexander.

In September of 2013 a District Appeals court threw out the conviction on grounds that Circuit Judge James Daniel erroneously placed the burden on Alexander to prove she acted in self-defense, when she only had to meet a “reasonable doubt concerning self-defense.”

Judge Daniel originally slapped Alexander with three twenty-year prison sentences, but ordered that they be served concurrently. If Alexander is convicted a second time in July, State Attorney Angela Corey will seek consecutive sentences, adding up to sixty years in prison.

Florida’s 10-20-Life law imposes a mandatory minimum of twenty years in prison for anyone who fires a gun while committing a felony. Angela Corey’s prosecution team says it is following a court ruling that multiple convictions for related charges under 10-20-Life should carry consecutive sentences.

The advocacy group Free Marissa Now released a statement calling Corey’s move a “stunning abuse of power.” Members of the group say Corey is pressing for a longer sentence to thwart attention from accusations of prosecutorial misconduct, as well as recent failures in high-profile trials. Corey failed to secure murder convictions for George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, two men who fatally shot black teenagers.

“Remember that when Marissa Alexander fired her warning shot to save her own life, she caused no injuries. Now she’s facing the very real possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison for that act of self-defense,” said advocate Sumayya Fire in the statement. “That should send a chill down the back of every person in this country who believes that women who are attacked have the right to defend themselves.”

Marissa Alexander seeks “Stand Your Ground” immunity,… | www.wokv.com

Marissa Alexander seeks “Stand Your Ground” immunity, sentencing changes

 

Marissa Alexander
Action News
Marissa Alexander

By Stephanie Brown

Jacksonville, FL —

We first told you earlier this week that Marissa Alexander’s attorney intended seek another “Stand Your Ground” immunity hearing ahead of her trial- and we’ve now obtained the documents backing that up.

More than 1200 pages were filed today in support of five separate motions. One would seek a pre-trial immunity hearing under “Stand Your Ground”. Two deal with the sentence Alexander could face if convicted. Two more deal with interactions between Alexander and Rico Gray.

Alexander was initially convicted of shooting a gun in the presence of Gray and two children and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. That conviction was overturned because of how the jury instructions were phrased. Alexander claims she fired a warning shot, fearing that Gray meant to harm her.

Stand Your Ground

Alexander sought SYG immunity ahead of her initial trial, but was denied. The motion now filed argues that neither the initial denial or the appeals court decision not to “reweigh” the case prevent Alexander from seeking this immunity again.

“This Court is able on remand to consider anew legal issues decided as part of the original proceeding, and the use of that discretion is especially vital where failure to do so would result in manifest injustice,” the motion reads.

The attorney, Bruce Zimet, says there has been “critical” new evidence since the initial SYG hearing and that the initial hearing itself included evidentiary problems. Zimet says the ruling in the SYG hearing was made largely on the testimony of Gray’s two sons, and he says one has since recanted and the other admitted to lying about a “prior altercation” between Gray and another woman, which Zimet believes woduld have established a pattern of Gray as abusive toward women.  He additionally argues that expert testimony on Alexander’s state of mind when she pulled the trigger was not previously introduced.

Zimet further says the initial SYG hearing was argued under the wrong statute.  He says the section used includes more stringent rules that require someone to have been attacked before returning with force of their own.

“By contrast, § 776.012—which applies to an individual in her home, as is the case here—eliminates any duty to retreat and allows deadly force if a person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm, or a forcible felony,” the motion says.

10-20-Life

A second motion claims sentencing Alexander to a mandatory minimum 20 years in prison is cruel and unusual punishment because it is “grossly disproportionate” to any offense Alexander is accused of committing.

Zimet argues the Florida legislature, who established 10-20-Life, never intended to have it applied to “battered women attempting to defend themselves”. In fact, Zimet cites current efforts at the state level to specifically exempt “warning shots” from such consequences, as proof that the statute was improperly applied.

While Zimet argues that Alexander should not face conviction at all, he says if she is found guilty, the sentence is out of proportion. He says most other states have a mandatory minimum nowhere near what Florida law outlines.

Consecutive vs. concurrent sentencing

The State Attorney’s Office tells WOKV that Florida statute requires Alexander to serve concurrent sentences if convicted, meaning she would face a minimum 60 years in prison for the total three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

This motion is condition on the ruling over 10-20-Life. Zimet says if the court does not rule mandatory minimum sentencing should not apply here, than it should rule sentences should at least not run consecutive- a total sentence Zimet argues would be unconstitutional in two ways.

First, Zimet argues the State is not allowed to pursue a steeper sentence on appeal unless there is new evidence introduced to warrant it. Zimet says the State did not object to concurrent sentences on the initial trial, so consecutive sentencing now would be an unconstitutional increase.

Second, the motion states the 60 year sentence in itself would be unconstitutional.

“A sentence of such enormous length is grossly disproportionate to any offense Alexander may have committed by firing a single, upward warning shot to protect herself against an enraged husband with a history of abuse who only minutes before had violently assaulted her,” the motion says.

Rico Gray, Sr. prior actions

The fourth motion filed is notice of Zimet’s intent to introduce past actions by Gray as part of Alexander’s affirmative defense that she feared for her life.

“At Alexander’s first trial, the jury heard a he-said/she-said about the events of August 1, 2010,” the motion says.

There was as discrepancy between those sides on whether the argument was verbal or physical, who the aggressor was, if there was an imminent threat, whether Alexander could leave the scene and more.

“What the jury did not hear—and what Alexander is now entitled to introduce—is specific evidence of Gray’s prior similar attacks on women, his repeated lies to law enforcement to avoid prosecution, and his implicit and explicit threats of violence against and coercion of witnesses, including his own children, to falsely accuse his female victims of attacking him,” the motion says.

Zimet says there is evidence Gray attacked Alexander as well as other women, which makes it hard to believe he is a victim. While Alexander introduced evidence of prior violent acts against her by Gray in the initial trial, Zimet says they plan to offer further evidence of violent acts by Gray against other women as well, and repeated attempts to obstruct justice- including a threat to kill Alexander and cover it up.

Subsequent “incident” with Rico Gray

While out on bail for the initial charges, which happened in August 2010, Alexander communicated on several occasions with Gray. In December 2010, Alexander was charged with Domestic Battery stemming from a fight with Gray. Gray claims that he refused to let Alexander spend the night after she dropped off their daughter, and she became angry and punched him, leaving marks on his face. Alexander claims Gray was the one who was angry and violent because she refused to spend the night, but police did not notice any physical marks on her.

In the first trial, the defense sought to preclude any evidence of this incident, but was denied. Zimet has filed a new motion asking the court to reconsider that motion to preclude.

Zimet says the fact that Alexander had contact with Gray cannot rebut her claim to self-defense. He says the charge deals with Alexander’s state of mind and fear of harm the moment she fired the gun, so only evidence dealing with that moment should be presented to a jury.

“The December 30 incident is not probative of Alexander’s state of mind nearly five months earlier, before she and Gray went to marital counseling, before Gray’s profuse apologies and proclamations of love, and before Alexander learned that her daughter Rihanna’s insurance was set to expire at the end of 2010 unless Alexander obtained Gray’s signature on Rihanna’s birth certificate,” the motion says.

Zimet further says the incident is “excessively prejudicial”, which hampers the interest of justice.

The State’s response

The State Attorney’s Office has issued a statement reading, in part, that they are reviewing these most recent motions.

“The State Attorney’s Office is committed to seeking justice for our two child victims and their father,” the statement says.

It further reads that they will make a response to these motions at the appropriate time.

Alexander’s retrial has been scheduled for July.

 

 

Marissa Alexander seeks “Stand Your Ground” immunity,… | www.wokv.com.

Marissa Alexander Released Home on House Arrest

Fla. Woman Sentenced to 20 Yrs. for Firing Warning Shot—RELEASED

Marissa Alexander Freed While Awaiting Trial

by Associated Press

Click on the photo to view additional Photos.

Marissa Alexander before going to prison (left), and during her prison term (right). (Courtesy Photo)

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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””

“Stand Your Ground Law Bites Blacks in the Butt”

Woman Sentenced For Firing Alleged ‘Warning Shot’ At Her Husband Gets Released

11/28/13 03:21 PM ET EST AP

woman warning shot released

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.

 

Update: Marissa Alexander Is Given No Bail Today – New Evidence Comes To Court

WED NOV 13, 2013

Updated: Marissa Alexander Is Given No Bail Today – New Evidence Comes To Court

by Leslie SalzilloFollow

in SOLIDARITY mARISSAMarissa 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) 

Women’s lives don’t matter: The lesson of Marissa Alexander

TUESDAY, OCT 1, 2013

Women’s lives don’t matter: The lesson of Marissa Alexander

Laws fail to effectively stop violent men or protect us — that’s why we have to stand up for ourselves

BY 

Women's lives don't matter: The lesson of Marissa AlexanderMarissa Alexander (Credit: AP/Lincoln B. Alexander)

I am passionate about domestic violence, because I am a childhood survivor of domestic violence. I know all too well the ways in which men like my father, many of whom are themselves subjugated on the basis of race and class, use home spaces to assert dominance and control that they are not able to wield in the larger world.

I know intimately the terror of being under surveillance in one’s own home, of the prerogative that many men assert to control the comings and goings of their partners and children, often through the threat of violence and force. I have seen how difficult it is to stand your ground, when society is structured to give men economic and political control over private, domestic space. I know what the journey to survivor status looked like for my mother, and the way that my father’s violence demoralized him and ruined our relationship.

I think of the women survivors of gun violence that I personally know (and of the gun violence that snuffed out my father’s life at the age of 33, as he ironically tried to prevent another woman and her children from becoming the victims of domestic violence at the hands of another man).

I think of two high school classmates, a white girl named Mary Dee and a black girl named Jackie, both killed by fatal gunshots in murder-suicide scenarios involving their partners. I think of a class of first-year, college-age African-American women (18 and 19 year olds) that I taught several years ago, in which fully one-quarter of them admitted to having been in violent relationships in high school.

I think about all the stories that are almost too terrifying to remember and much too personal to confess.

Last week, a judge ordered a new trial for Marissa Alexander, a 33-year-old African-American woman from Florida currently serving a mandatory 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot into the wall to scare off her violent and abusive husband.

The new trial order comes just in time for our annual October commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it calls attention to startling new statistics released from the Violence Policy Center. In 2011, 1,707 women were murdered by men in single victim, single offender incidents. In 94 percent of these cases, these women were murdered by men they knew, and in 51 percent of the cases, they were murdered by guns. Sixty-one percent of these victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers. This means that intimate partner relationships constitute one of the most significant contexts through which women experience violence within our culture.

The disproportionate amounts of violence toward black women, who are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than their white female counterparts, were significant enough to warrant their own section of the report. In 2011, 470 black women were killed in single victim/single offender homicides. In cases where the relationship could be determined, 94 percent of black women knew their killers.

That number is entirely consistent across racial categories, because most violent crime is intraracial. On the one hand, that fact would seem to highlight the erroneous nature of designations like “black-on-black” crime, an incendiary term use to pathologize black people, while failing to acknowledge that among white people most crime is “white-on-white” crime.

Beyond the racially problematic dimensions of these kinds of demographic designations, there is the problem of gender. Black women are never the subject of either community or national discussions about “black-on-black” crime, which is largely focused on stopping the epidemic of homicidal violence among young black men. The invisibilization of black women from discourses about victims of violence makes it hard to actually see black women as victims.

In Marissa Alexander’s case, she inadvertently encountered her husband, a man against whom she had a restraining order, when she went to their home to retrieve her clothes unaware that he would be there. When he showed up, she felt threatened, went to her car to retrieve her gun, and then fired a shot into the wall in order to scare him away. Perhaps, this is why the judge also ruled that Alexander cannot use a “stand your ground” defense in her own trial.

The failure of the law to protect Marissa Alexander from her husband, who has admitted under oath to treating her violently, placed her in a difficult set of circumstances. There is no reason that she should be serving 20 years in prison for defending herself against a violent attacker. Yet, she was sentenced through a combination of overzealous prosecuting, by the same Florida district attorney, Angela Corey, who had to be convinced through national protests and marches to prosecute Trayvon Martin’s killer, and extremely punitive mandatory minimum sentencing laws that require some crimes in which a gun is used to carry a 20-year sentence.

Yet again, Angela Corey, and the Florida justice system in general, seem to have a hard time distinguishing victims from perpetrators.

In an ironic twist, Shellie Zimmerman, wife of acquitted killer George Zimmerman, has also had trouble finding any protection on the basis of Florida’s domestic violence laws.  In early September, Shellie Zimmerman called 911 to report that George Zimmerman was brandishing a gun at her and her father, as she attempted to remove her belongings from their home after filing for divorce. Mrs. Zimmerman never saw the actual weapon, but instead observed her husband using threatening body language, while gesturing toward his waistband. She concluded that he had a gun, and since he is legally entitled to carry his gun after being acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder, that seems like a credible conclusion on her part. To date, no charges have been filed against George Zimmerman, even though this is not his first run-in with the law on charges of domestic violence.

Fifty-one percent of female homicide victims are killed with guns. In a world where women’s lives matter, robust gun control would be non-negotiable. But in a world where women’s lives don’t matter, Marissa Alexander doesn’t have any ground on which to stand, nor a fighting chance at freedom.

Lest folks convince themselves that these kinds of occurrences are anomalous, I would encourage you to spend some time this month talking to the women you know about the violence they have experienced at the hands of men in their own lives.

Marissa Alexander stood up for herself. She did not retreat. She refused any longer to take her husband’s shit. Unaided by laws that can effectively stop violent men in their tracks, all women survivors reach a point where they refuse to take it anymore. Even as we work to transform our culture of misogynistic violence into a world safe for women to inhabit, we must stand with and for those women who are standing up for themselves.

Brittney CooperBrittney Cooper is a contributing writer at Salon. Follow her on Twitter at@professorcrunk.

LISTEN LIVE TO OUR LIVE INTERVIEW WITH Ms. Alexander hours following her sentencing.

5-12 aCTION aLERT

Cabinet Passes, for Now, on Pardoning Marissa Alexander, Pending Stand Your Ground Appeal

Cabinet Passes, for Now, on Pardoning Marissa Alexander, Pending Stand Your Ground Appeal

 | AUGUST 7, 2013

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she termed a warning shot at her abusive husband, and not allowed to use the stand your ground defense.

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she termed a warning shot at her abusive husband, and not allowed to use the stand your ground defense.

Members of the Florida Cabinet said Tuesday it’s too soon to consider a pardon for Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a shot into a wall during a domestic dispute.

But an appeals court will decide whether Alexander should have been able to use a “stand your ground” defense to fight the charge.

Alexander, a 32-year-old mother of three, was sentenced last year under Florida’s “10-20-Life” mandatory-minimum law. (She was prosecuted by State Attorney Angela Corey, whom Gov. Rick Scott picked to prosecute the Gorge Zimmerman case. Corey offered Alexander a three-year prison sentence in a plea bargain, which Alexander turned down. The prosecution’s version of events is posted here.)

Alexander argued that the “stand your ground” self-defense law should apply, but a judge ruled against her because she ran to the garage for her gun and returned with it instead of escaping. A jury later found her guilty — in 12 minutes — of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

According to filings at the 1st District of Appeal in Tallahassee, Alexander’s attorneys contend that the trial court erred in denying Alexander’s pretrial motion for immunity based on “stand your ground.” They wrote that due to the history of domestic violence in the relationship with her husband, Rico Gray, Alexander had reason to fear bodily harm and had no duty to retreat.

They also argued that the trial court’s instruction to the jury “erroneously shifted the burden of proof, requiring that Alexander prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was in danger of imminent harm in order to invoke self-defense,” according to the motion filed last November.

Alexander’s case drew enormous attention when she was sentenced in May 2012. It returned to the spotlight last month, when a Sanford jury acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman did not use a “stand your ground” defense, but the case has sparked widespread debate about the law. Approved in 2005, the law says a person who is not doing anything illegal and gets attacked “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.”

Alexander’s case also has become part of a sit-in at the state Capitol, where a group called the Dream Defenders has occupied Gov. Rick Scott’s waiting area, demanding a special legislative session on the “stand your ground” law. Tuesday marked the third week of the sit-in.

Members of the Dream Defenders have followed Alexander’s case, and their political director, Ciara Taylor of Jacksonville, was in court when Alexander was sentenced.

One good thing to come out of the verdict, Taylor said Tuesday, is the need to explore cases like Alexander’s — “cases involving the black-and-white … disparity within using ‘stand your ground.’ ” She also said it’s important “to talk about domestic violence against women in this country.”

On Monday, state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, wrote to Scott and the Cabinet, asking them to pardon Alexander when they next sit as the clemency board. Bullard noted that Alexander had reason to fear because her husband had battered her in the past.

Scott and Cabinet members could take up Bullard’s call for a pardon for Alexander on Sept. 25, when the clemency board meets. But on Tuesday, they were noncommittal. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Pam Bondi said that because Bondi’s office is representing the prosecution in Alexander’s criminal appeal, “it would not be appropriate to discuss clemency-related matters until the court has made a determination regarding the disposition of the criminal appeal.”

The appeal is also based on what Alexander’s attorneys argue are two additional errors by the trial court: denying her the right to consult her attorney during the single overnight recess of her two-day trial, and giving the standard jury instruction on the use of force.

“The instruction given effectively negated Alexander’s sole defense — that is, self-defense — by erroneously stating that an injury to the victim was a prerequisite to successfully invoking self-defense,” the motion said.

“She had every right to be afraid and every right to defend herself,” said Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “It is often the case that when a battered woman fights back and protects herself, the full force of the law comes down on her.”

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

 

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