Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, Fla., received a 20-years prison sentence, Friday, May 11, 2012, for firing warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband. The judge rejected a defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. / WETV
Associated Press News Release
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.
Associated Press Release
By DEREK KINNER
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- About 50 people representing domestic violence survivors rallied in front of the Duval County Courthouse in support of Marissa Alexander, whose aggravated assault with a handgun conviction and subsequent 20-year sentence was recently overturned.
Alexander appeared in a Duval County courthouse Thursday for a bond hearing.
Her supporters had hoped she would be released since an appeals court recently overturned the conviction.
Alexander's attorney, Bruce A. Zimet, said after the hearing that the case will go to trial again and he had not expected prosecutors to drop the charge. A judge set a bond hearing for Nov. 8 and Zimet hopes Alexander, who has spent two years in prison, will be granted bail. Jury drawing for her trial was set to begin March 31.
NAACP Statement on Marissa Alexander Retrial
(Jacksonville, FL) – Today an appellate court granted a retrial to Marissa Alexander, the African-American woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot in a wall of her home during a dispute with her husband.
NAACP leaders made the following statements:
“This is a welcome development in a case that represents the double standards in our justice system,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “From the streets to the court house, race continues to influence the judicial process, and it certainly seemed to have played a role here.”
“We are heartened to hear that this decision has been made, and we are hopeful that accessibility to a fair trial will continue for Marissa,” stated NAACP Florida State Conference President Adora Obi Nweze. “We have so many cases of injustice in Florida, and while we only hear about one or two, there are so many more that go unreported. We will continue fighting for all the other Marissa Alexanders out there.”
“This is a great day for Marissa and her family. In working with her, we have always believed in the judicial system,” stated Isaiah Rumlin, President of the Jacksonville NAACP. “There were some mistakes made in the original trial, and the appellate court was able to correct those mistakes and grant a new trial. We are very pleased that the appellate court did that. We will continue to work with her lawyers to see it through.”
In July 2012, the NAACP held a rally attended by hundreds of people in support of Ms. Alexander, in her home town of Jacksonville, Florida.
September 26, 2013
By: Julie Montanaro
The First District Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for Marissa Alexander.
It rejected her claims that she was immune from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, but it ordered a new trial because it found errors in the jury instructions on self defense.
The appeals court ruling says the way the jury instructions were written, they shifted the burden from the state to prove Alexander committed a crime to Alexander to prove she acted in self defense.
"The burden never shifts to the defendant," the court cited in its ruling.
One of the judges concurred with the opinion, but pointed out "It was the prerogative of the jury to determine which version of events to believe and by its verdict it appears that the jury rejected (Alexander's) version of events."
Judge Wetherell said the issue of whether Alexander is entitled to immunity under Florida's Stand Your Ground law "is no longer open for debate."
CBS News Web Copy
Updated on July 15, 2013 to reflect more of the testimony and aftermath of the case.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Florida woman who fired warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville had said the state's "Stand Your Ground" law should apply to her because she was defending herself against her allegedly abusive husband when she fired warning shots inside her home in August 2010. She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order.
CBS Affiliate WETV reports that Circuit Court Judge James Daniel handed down the sentence Friday.
Under Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing requirements Alexander couldn't receive a lesser sentence, even though she has never been in trouble with the law before. Judge Daniel said the law did not allow for extenuating or mitigating circumstances to reduce the sentence below the 20-year minimum.
"I really was crying in there," Marissa Alexander's 11-year-old daughter told WETV. "I didn't want to cry in court, but I just really feel hurt. I don't think this should have been happening."
Alexander was convicted of attempted murder after she rejected a plea deal for a three-year prison sentence. She said she did not believe she did anything wrong.
Complete Coverage: George Zimmerman trial and the Trayvon Martin case
She was recently denied a new trial after appealing to the judge to reconsider her case based on Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law. The law states that the victim of a crime does not have to attempt to run for safety and can immediately retaliate in self-defense.
Alexander's attorney said she was clearly defending herself and should not have to spend the next two decades behind bars.
Alexander's case has drawn support from domestic abuse advocates - and comparison to the case of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who has claimed self-defense in his fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
According to a sworn deposition taken in November 2010, Marissa Alexander's husband, Rico Gray, 36, said that on August 1, 2010, he and Alexander began fighting after he found text messages to Alexander's first husband on her phone. The two were already estranged - according to her father, Alexander had been living at her mother's since the birth of the couple's daughter nine days earlier, and Gray, a long-haul trucker, said he spent the night before in his tractor-trailer. Gray began calling her names, saying "If I can't have you, nobody going to have you," and blocking her from exiting the bathroom.
Alexander pushed past Gray and went into the garage where she got her gun from her car's glove compartment.
Gray told prosecutors in the deposition that Alexander came back into the house holding the weapon and told him to leave. He refused, and what happened next is somewhat unclear. In his deposition, Gray said "she shot in the air one time," prompting him and the children to run out the front door. But when Gray called 911 the day of the incident, he said "she aimed the gun at us and she shot."
In August 2011, a judge rejected a motion by Alexander's attorney to grant her immunity under the "Stand your Ground" law. According to the judge's order, "there is insufficient evidence that the Defendant reasonably believed deadly force was needed to prevent death or great bodily harm to herself," and that the fact that she came back into the home, instead of leaving out the front or back door "is inconsistent with a person who is in genuine fear for her life."
Alexander's case was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the Florida State's Attorney who is also prosecuting George Zimmerman. Alexander was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and because she discharged a firearm during the incident, the case fell under Florida's "10-20-life" law, enacted in 1999, which mandates a 20-year sentence for use of a gun during the commission of certain crimes.
Corey initially offered Alexander a three year deal if she pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, but according to CBS affiliate WTEV, Alexander did not believe she had done anything wrong, and rejected the plea. Her bet did not pay off: the jury in the case returned a guilty verdict in less than 15 minutes.
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