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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