If ever the Stand Your Ground law in Florida had a chance of being applied fairly, that has gone out the window in the case of Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of three who has been sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband.
In the aftermath of the long-delayed arrest of Trayvon Martin’s killer, it is incomprehensible that Alexander, who neither killed nor injured anyone, has been convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Her husband, Rico Gray, a man with a documented history of abuse including an assault on her while she was pregnant, threatened to kill her nine days after the birth of their daughter. This time, Marissa wasn’t going to put up with another beating. When threatened, she fired a warning shot into the ceiling to let Gray know that the abuse was over and he’d better think twice before coming after her again.
He then ran into the street and claimed that she had threatened to kill him and his boys. On his word alone, she was arrested.
State Attorney Angela Corey, the same prosecutor who is prosecuting the Trayvon Martin case, offered a three-year sentence plea bargain but Alexander refused on the grounds that she had done nothing wrong. Alexander tried to invoke Florida’s Stand Your Ground law but the judge refused.
Even though Gray recanted and even though Alexander’s 11-year-old daughter took the stand and made a plea on her mother’s behalf, the judge said that he had no choice but to sentence Alexander for at least 20 years.
This verdict poses serious questions about an already questionable law that is applied unevenly. Jacksonville Congresswoman Corrine Brown has stated that Alexander’s case is a product of “institutionalized racism” and that she had been unable to locate a Stand Your Ground case where a black person is the beneficiary of the law. Alexander is a black woman. Brown will be calling for a national study by the U.S. Department of Justice or other entity to determine whether there are racial inequalities in the application of the Stand Your Ground defense.
In the meantime, Marissa Alexander faces a long time in prison with little hope of getting out.
There is an online petition to Florida Governor Rick Scott to grant a pardon to Marissa Alexander. You can sign it here: Pardon Marissa Alexander