Marissa Alexander is another victim of Florida’s infamous Stand Your Ground law, proving that Florida statute 776.013 is not for battered women or people who won’t shoot to kill. When attacked by her husband in her home, with an order of protection in place, Marissa Alexander shot into the ceiling, instead of into his body, to scare him away. She is now sitting in a jail cell, awaiting sentencing for assault with a deadly weapon.
Ms. Alexander is black and a mother of three. She had given birth nine days earlier to a premature infant, allegedly as a result of battering during her pregnancy. She is a licensed gun owner, with concealed carry permit. She was in her own home. Her husband had a documented history of domestic violence. She reasonably believed that her life was in danger and her husband was violating an order of protection.
According to Ms. Alexander:
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.
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.
He ran all the way to the police station to file charges against her. Police came and took her into custody – no Zimmerman benefit of the doubt that day. Ms. Alexander has since been convicted of three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, because her husband had brought his two young sons with him when he illegally entered the home.
Ms. Alexander requested immunity from prosecution but her claim of self-defense based on the Stand Your Ground Statute was rejected. She is now sitting in the Pretrial Detention Facility in Jacksonville FL, Duval County awaiting sentencing – up to 20 years in prison. That is more than George Zimmerman could get it if he is convicted of manslaughter.
What Happened to Stand Your Ground?
Unlike Mr. Zimmerman who stalked and confronted his attacker, Ms. Alexander was trying to get away from hers. In fact, the Stand Your Ground law specifically acknowledges domestic situations and orders of protection. Unlike Mr. Zimmerman, Ms. Alexander did not kill her husband or even wound him, she fired to scare him into leaving her alone.
Is that the problem? Unless you shoot to kill, are you really in reasonable fear of bodily injury or death? Or is the bias against battered women, specifically battered black women, still going strong in America’s court rooms?
Evidently so, since the State of Florida cited this as part of their reason for denying her immunity from prosecution under the Stand Your Ground statute:
instead of shooting at [husband] (as one would do if they were truly in fear of their life) the Defendant chose to fire mere inches to the right of his face to scare him.
Another interesting tidbit, is the court’s issue with Ms. Alexander heading for the garage where her vehicle was parked. According to the judge, she passed multiple exits on her way to the garage and surely a person in fear for their life would have run out the first available door. Hmm, I thought the Castle Doctrine specifically stated that a person was not required to flee their home but could defend themselves in it? But even so, if I was scared for my life, would I want to walk away or drive away?
Of course, the vehicle is where Ms. Alexander stored her handgun and the court’s implication is that’s what she specifically went to get. What if she did? She was being physically threatened in her home by someone who wasn’t legally allowed to be there. What a shame he wasn’t a stranger, that would have changed everything. And just to up the ante, the denial of her self-defense claim was handled by none other than Angela Corey, special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case.
Stigma Facing Battered Woman
An Order of Protection issued to Ms. Alexander in 9/30/09 ran until 10/8/10. The order was still in effect when she was arrested on August 1, 2010.
In the husband’s deposition, he acknowledges four episodes of domestic violence, prior to pushing his wife into the bathtub where she hit her head and needed to go to the hospital. Mr. Alexander ran that time too, but he was the one arrested. These are matters of judicial record.
Interestingly enough, in denying Ms. Alexander immunity under Stand Your Ground, the state cited the following:
There is no evidence before this court that the Defendant experienced great bodily harm during this incident or any previous incidents of alleged abuse.
Nice to know in Florida, you can get an order of protection for no reason at all. Why should she be afraid of man who made this statement under oath:
She’s a little person so it doesn’t take much for me to pick her up and tote her out my front door and lock my door.
And in response to the question if he’d been charged with domestic violence by women other than Ms. Alexander:
I want to say I think it was one, but it might have been two.
Nice, he’s not even sure how many times. No wonder the prosecutor was confused.
What is most humiliating about Ms. Alexander’s case for me is the complete lack of understanding of battered woman syndrome. This is a woman who had every reason to fire into that man’s chest, but she didn’t – because battered women struggle to stand up against their abusers. They are conditioned to hold themselves at fault for the abuser’s behavior. They believe him when he tells that they’re worthless and stupid and will never be able to stand on their own. They are always trying to find the right thing to say or do to make their abusers treat them better.
Though both the judge and the prosecutor were female – and should both be well versed in domestic violence – this little piece in the denial of immunity turns my stomach. After claiming that there was no existing evidence of abuse, this was added:
“However there is evidence that while out on bond, the Defendant repeatedly had contact with [the husband] indicating to this Court that she was not deathly afraid of him.”
Who would ever expect a battered woman to maintain contact with her abuser? Just about every documented authority on domestic violence in the country. Marissa Alexander was trying to get out. Statistically battered women will leave their abusers several times before they finally cut the ties. While they are attempting to end the relationship, both the woman and her children are at the highest risk of physical violence.
Stand your ground, ladies – but only if you shoot to kill. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing 20 years in prison for not being scared enough.
Follow me on twitter @mrbabypants and find more about Marissa Alexander here, courtesy of Nancy Lockhart, M.J.