A 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.