A Florida woman who once had been sentenced to 20 years in a case that invoked the state’s “stand your ground” law has accepted a plea deal that will see her released from prison in January.
Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, Fla., was accused of firing what she said was a warning shot at her husband and two of his children during a domestic dispute in 2010. She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, convicted and sentenced under Florida’s mandatory minimum guidelines.
Alexander’s legal team used the stand-your-ground law as part of her legal defense. The law, as The Associated Press puts it, “says individuals have no duty to retreat from a place where they have a right to be and may use any level of force, including lethal, if they reasonably believe they face an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death.”
Alexander’s case prompted accusations of racial disparity in the application of stand your ground.
“The initially little-known case gained national traction in the wake the acquittal of George Zimmerman, charged in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. In both cases, defendants Alexander and Zimmerman claimed they used force in self-defense. For some, the conviction of Alexander, who is black, and acquittal of Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, signaled a bias within the justice system.”
But another Florida man recently was sentenced to life without parole in a case that mentioned stand your ground in jury instructions. Michael Dunn, who is white, fatally shot a black teenager named Jordan Davis in an argument over loud music coming from Davis’ vehicle
Alexander served nearly two years in prison before an appeals court judge vacated her conviction. The AP says the judge found that the previous ruling wrongly placed the burden on Alexander to prove that she was abused by her husband. Here’s more from the news service:
“According to Alexander, her estranged husband, Rico Gray, accused her of having an affair and questioned whether their 9-day-old baby was his. She says she locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door and shoved her to the floor. She says she tried to escape through the garage but the door wouldn’t open. She retrieved a gun from a car, went back inside and says she fired a ‘warning shot’ after Gray said he would kill her — an account backed by one of his sons. No one was injured.
“The plea deal came soon after the judge in the case decided to allow evidence that Gray had abused women in the past.”
Alexander has already served 1,030 days in jail and will serve 65 more days as part of the agreement.
“No one’s doing cartwheels going back to jail, but this was her means of getting the case behind her,” her chief attorney, Bruce Zimet, told the AP.
After her release, Alexander reportedly will be required to wear a monitoring device that will track her movements for two years. Had she been found guilty on all counts in a second trial that was set to start Dec. 1, she would have faced up to 60 years in prison.
“However,” as WJCT notes, “on Alexander’s second charge of aggravated assault, the judge still reserves the power to impose up to five years in prison during sentencing.”