Marissa Alexander Gets New Trial

9960065315_ec52c041c3A Florida woman currently serving 20 years in prison for firing a shot in the vicinity of her abusive husband will get a new trial–but she can’t claim protection under the state’s infamous “stand your ground” law, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

No one was hurt in the incident, but mandatory sentencing laws required Marissa Alexander to spend 20 years in prison after she was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Alexander said she fired a warning shot into the ceiling in 2010 because she feared her estranged husband, Rico Gray, would kill her. The 1st District Court of Appeal threw out her claim of self-defense under the “stand your ground” law, which “generally removes people’s duty to retreat in the face of possible danger and allows them to use of deadly force if they believe their lives are in danger,” wrote the Huffington Post.

As Slate reports, Alexander says her husband “assaulted me, shoving, strangling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing, all while I begged for him to leave.” The court said she could have left the house to escape Gray, but instead grabbed the gun from her car and went back inside.

Gray, who maintains his wife was the aggressor, had been arrested twice for domestic battery, but in 2006 the charges were dropped and in 2009 he was put on probation.

Critics argue the Florida justice system is skewed against black defendants. Some cite what they see as an inconsistent application of the “stand your ground” law, which had an effect on the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Others note that blacks are sentenced to longer prison stays because of mandatory minimum sentences and overzealous prosecutors.

So George Zimmerman went free and Marissa Alexander got 20 years. Hopefully a new trial will bring about a much more fair verdict.

Photo of Marissa Alexander from Flickr user Abayomi Azikiwe under license from Creative Commons 2.0.


ME EMILYEmily Zak is finishing up her B.A. in journalism from the University of Montana as an editorial intern for Ms.



  1. Naomi Oliviae says:

    And, yet, this man also got 20 years in Missouri recently.

  2. Kathryn brown says:

    She should be set free right now don’t spend anymore tax money to free someone who did nothing wrong

  3. I can’t believe the appeals court threw out her self-defense when her husband has a record of domestic battery. I am so sick of courts revictimizing domestic violence survivors. This woman did the right thing and should be protected under the Stand Your Ground Law. I would love to know what the Appeals Court feels is a justifiable reason for denying that defense. If Zimmerman can use it for being the aggressor and killing someone, because of his account of how things played out. Why shouldn’t Ms. Alexander be afforded the same opportunity?

  4. Thanks for this summary, Emily!

  5. Sorry but this will not work this time. This woman shot at her ex husband with his 12 YR OLD CHILD STANDING NEXT TO HIM. Fortunately another black male with a online talk show had Rico Gray (her ex husband) that actually DOCUMENTS her actions that day and other times as well showing she was no victim. If you want the truth look up the interview link below or google ” Rico Gray interview with the”. The jigg is up ms magazine. Nice try….

  6. Unbelievable laws in Florida! Talk about seeing the world thru the eyes of men and ignoring a woman’s perspective.

  7. I just read the appellate opinion—–um, the facts of every article i read about her so are greatly skewed and misrepresentative of what happened…she shouldn’t have gotten stand your ground (like GZ shouldn’t have had). Do people agree with Stand Your Ground laws now that reading about this woman?

    I think the “inconsistency” is really just a jury question. Juries of 100% different people with 100% different facts may, at times, reach different verdicts. This is our justice system and I don’t think this highlights a bias or bad law, but rather is a reality of the system. To say otherwise is to say that judges should sit at judge AND jury, that our constitutional guarantee of trial by jury should be forgotten and that when public opinion based on 6 paragraph summaries reaches a fever point, the State should bow to public opinion.

    Any thoughts?

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