Stand Your Ground Laws Do Not Apply Equally to Women, Especially Women of Color –
Marissa Alexander’s case illuminated the point that Stand Your Ground laws do not apply equally to women, especially women of color.
Marissa Alexander, a Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she defended was a single warning shot toward her abusive husband in 2010 was freed in January 2015 as part of a plea deal. Marissa argued that her use of a firearm was defended under the state’s Stand Your Ground clause which gives the benefit of the doubt to a shooter who feels threatened.
You may recall George Zimmerman’s case for shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin. Well, here’s the background on Marissa Alexander, according to Essence.com. In August of 2010, just nine days after giving birth to her daughter, Alexander, now 34, was assaulted and threatened by her estranged husband Rico Gray. She went to her garage to get her legal firearm during the altercation, returned to the house, and fired what she called a “warning shot” at Gray that hit the wall.
After the confrontation, Alexander was arrested, charged and convicted on three counts of aggravated armed assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison under Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing law. The verdict was overturned, due to faulty jury instructions, but prosecutor Angela Corey, who failed to secure the conviction of George Zimmerman, pressed on with a new trial where Alexander faced even more time—up to 60 years—in prison. Prosecutors argued that because Alexander had to exit the house to retrieve the gun from her car in the garage, she was no longer in any imminent danger and thus not afforded immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground defense. Furthermore, Alexander’s warning shot hit the wall, as opposed to the ceiling, and prosecutors insisted that this put Gray and his children in physical danger.
While Marissa only fired her weapon to ward off an attacker, she was arrested and faced another 60 years behind bars before striking that plea deal with prosecutors last fall. She was ultimately unable to prove to a judge that her use of a firearm was in self-defense.
Alexander’s case gained national attention and scrutiny for the disparate treatment she received in not being protected under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which states that if a person reasonably believes they are in imminent danger, they are permitted to they themselves use deadly force in self defense. George Zimmerman’s case helped propel Alexander’s situation to national headlines, because this was a clear example of state statutes being applied unequally to defendants who both initially claimed immunity under Stand Your Ground. Though Zimmerman’s defense team didn’t use Stand Your Ground to win him an acquittal, both Zimmerman and Alexander were prosecuted by Angela Corey.
Marissa Alexander, 34, was released only after striking a deal that capped her sentence to three years’ time already served for just firing a weapon and not killing are injuring anyone.
While leaving a Jacksonville courthouse, the mother of three cried while thanking her supporters and sharing her plans to continue her education in pursuit of becoming a paralegal someday. Advocates for domestic violence survivors, while pleased with Alexander’s release, will no doubt continue the push to amend Stand Your Ground to protect the women who need it most.
Watch video below: Marissa Alexander opens up about her plans for the future. Upon release from jail, Marissa Alexander talks with Melissa Harris-Perry about what she’s planning for the years to come, people who stayed on her side, and what got her through the tumultuous legal battles.