Radio Sandwell African / Caribbean News

Court overturns woman's 20-year 'warning shot' sentence

2014-10-18 23:33:30

Marissa Alexander

In another Florida shooting case that captured national headlines, an appellate court overturned the decision to put Marissa Alexander behind bars for 20-year prison sentence for firing a warning shot in proximity to her abusive husband.

Alexander's case initially took just 12 minutes to convict Marissa Alexander, a mother of three, of aggravated assault. The case has been often contrasted with the exoneration of white Hispanic George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watchman who shot unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in a gate subdivision in suburban Orlando, Fla., two years ago

The outrage on the two comparable cases was aired on social media and among some lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Alexander tried to invoke Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law as the same prosecutors who unsuccessfully worked to put Zimmerman behind bars told the court that she did not act in self-defense, but Judge James Daniel was not having it.

"We reject her contention that the trial court erred in declining to grant her immunity from prosecution under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, but we remand for a new trial because the jury instructions on self-defense were erroneous," wrote Daniel.

Here's how the case played out for those who may have forgotten some of the details of this long draw out case:

Alexander testified that, on Aug. 1, 2010, her then-husband, Rico Gray Sr., questioned her fidelity and the paternity of her 1-week-old child. According to her testimony, she said he broke through a bathroom door that she had locked and grabbed her by the neck. She said she tried to push past him but he shoved her into the door, sparking a struggle that felt like an "eternity."

After she got free, she said she ran to the garage and tried to leave but was unable to open the garage door, so she retrieved a gun, which she legally owned.

Once inside, her estranged husband saw the gun and lunged at her "in a rage", yelling, "B--, I'll kill you." She said she raised the gun and fired a warning shot into the air because it was the "lesser of two evils," as opposed to shooting and perhaps killing him.

The jury quickly rejected Alexander's self-defense claim and Alexander was sentenced under the state's 10-20-life law. Initially, the jury's decision incited the ire of the American populace and legislators over how self-defense laws are applied in the state.

A Florida appellate court ruled today that jury instructions, which unfairly made Alexander prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that she was acting in self-defense, were wrong - and that there were other incorrect instructions that self-defense only applied if the victim suffered an injury, which Gray had not.

Today, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., lashed out at Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, who oversaw the failed prosecution of George Zimmerman and the prosecution in this case, saying, "Arresting and prosecuting her when no one was hurt does not make any sense. ... What was certainly absent from the courtroom during Marissa's trial was mercy and justice. Indeed, the three-year plea deal from State Attorney Angela Corey is not mercy, and a mandatory 20-year sentence is not justice."

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