Marissa Alexander Sentenced to 20 Years For Firing Warning Shot at Abusive Husband

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Just days after the controversial George Zimmerman verdict saw him go free in the death of Trayvon Martin, another Florida self-defense case is making headlines.

Marissa Alexander, a 32-year-old African-American, was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot into the wall of her home.

Marissa Alexander Photo

She cited the state's "Stand Your Ground" law in her defense of the 2010 incident, when she tried to end a violent argument with her abusive husband.

A judge and jury didn't buy it, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said the contrast in the George Zimmerman and Marissa Alexander cases shows grievous injustices in the justice system:

"In one case Mr. Zimmerman kills a young man and walks away, free to kill again. And Marissa shot no one, hurt no one, and she's in jail for 20 years."

"We see radical racial polarization in the judicial system," Jackson said.

"That's a cause of great concern."

After meeting with Alexander, Jackson spoke with Angela Corey, the state prosecutor who handled both the Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander cases.

Corey said Alexander's case is in the appeal phase and out of her jurisdiction, but Jackson urged her to use her power to see that she is released.

"Ours was a moral appeal," he said. "This mother has three children."

"They need their mother," he added, noting that Alexander had already served the three years originally offered to her by the state in a plea deal.

Corey charged Alexander with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon because her husband's two children were in the house.

Alexander's case received little attention when she was convicted, but that changed after the Martin killing cast a new spotlight on "Stand Your Ground."

Under the law, people fearing for their lives can use deadly force without having to retreat from a confrontation, even when it is theoretically possible.

Alexander, a slightly built woman, told police that her husband, Rico Gray, was moving toward her threateningly when she fired into a kitchen wall.

He had previously been convicted on a domestic violence charge.

Gray's two children were at home, in the living room. Prosecutors alleged that the shot she fired to scare off Gray endangered both Gray and the children.

Alexander filed a "Stand Your Ground" claim, but a judge went on to rule against her because Alexander chose to go back into the house with her gun.

A jury took just 12 minutes to find her guilty of three counts.

Moreover, the case is under scrutiny because she fired a gun, and is subject to Florida's "10-20-Life" mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines.

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Theresa-batchelor-holley-vsg

She should of just took his ass out. Sorry, but he wouldn't be abusive anymore...and she might of got the same sentence or got off. But leaver the Trayvon and Zimmerman incidence out of this equation...they are not similar in the least.

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IM sorry! After reading this story it's clear to me that the stand your ground law doesn't apply to everyone! It's so sad that we still see a Jim crow mentality in 2013. Black people must join forces and realize what happened to trayvon can easily happen to any of us!!!

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Read the facts and decide for yourself. The jury spend 12 minutes to convict, which was a long time after you know the details of the case. http://www.scribd.com/doc/8976...

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This is exactly the problem with minimum mandatories, generally and with 10/20/life specifically. Under 10/20/life, if you possess a gun during a crime, you get a 10 year day for day sentence (no gain time, time off etc.), fire it and you get 20 day for day and if you shoot somebody and cause great bodily harm, you get life with a minimum of 25 years. The Judge must impose this sentence or the state appeals and it gets re-sentenced under the law. There are crazy results as a result of this. Just like this woman's case, I have seen (I am a criminal defense attorney in Florida) a Florida Dad who was beaten by his son and then as the son left, Dad fired off a shot while saying something like "never come back here again" and experts testified that the shot was no where near the kid. Dad got 20 years and will end up dying in prison (even if his son doesn't want that - there is no going back and nothing to appeal). Two young men in an argument, both have guns out, both fire a shot, bullet ricochets into one guys foot. There is no permanent injury to the foot. There is evidence that it's not for certain which gun fired the shot. The other guy gets life in prison with a day for day minimum 25 years. If he gets out after the 25, we will have spent about $750,000. to house him. And the woman about $600,000. And we have one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. No wonder we have one of the worst public education systems in the U.S., we spend our money keeping people in prison for long periods of time for crimes in which no one was hurt or permanently injured rather than providing for education and rehabilitation. Very short-sighted in Florida!

Dr-gonzo
@ karen

The US of A seems to be trying to get the prison industrial complex as the leading indicator for GDP. There are substantial inequities in other mandatory sentencing schemes, usually associated with our obsession with drug prohibition. Any support for a modification to the Florida statute better be handled with some finesse. People are fed up with crime, and political machinations will likely rule the day, unless a well crafted alternative is proffered.
While there are plenty of cases where people face inequitable sentences from things as miniscule as traffic, to major felonies under cases where judges had all the discretion at their fingertips, a carve-out for extenuating circumstances seems a good way to avoid travesties of justice. Still, ya can't argue. We have the best legal system money can buy.... :)

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Shouldn't this be a call to get rid of mandatory minimums?

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@ conor mccartney

That would be the most productive thing to do (IMO) for this case, or at least modify the law to give a judge some discretion in sentencing.

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The reason she got sentenced is because she left the house and came back, that isn't standing your ground, you fled a scene then came back and firing a gun gets you 20 years, she should of took the plea. You don't leave and come back and if it was to obtain the children to go to a safer place she should of called the cops. her husband would of had more right to shoot her under the stand your ground law cause she left then came bargaining right back into the home.

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Marissa was just trying to protect herself. She should be released from prison, and the state should fucking apologize to her for punishing her for protecting herself from her crazy ass husband. That's exactly why this country is ass fucking backwards sometimes.....because of ignorant remedial bullshit like this.....pathetic.

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People trying to justify her sentence are mostly racist there are people who get less then 20 for murder 20 years is ridiculous and shows a failure in are judicial system I don't believe if she was a white girl she would have got such a harsh sentence for first time offense with no criminal history . If you think it would have been the same look up other cases where a white female got 20 years without mirdering are harming somebody you will not find one I already looked

Dr-gonzo
@ Brian

As i understand the facts of this case, she made a piss-poor decision not taking the deal.
The problem isn't black-white, it's an inflexible law, 10-20-Life that removes discretion from sentencing.

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Jesse Jackson is an instigatot and he and Rev Al need to be prosecuted for inciting racial prejudice and violence

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Also, she turned down a plea bargain where they offered to waive the 10,20,life law and only charge her with the breaking & entering, and she turned it down. So its kinda hard to feel sorry for her when she admitted to breaking in, and she knew she fired a gun, and she knew firing a gun was automatic 20yrs.