Imagine facing up to 60 years behind bars for protecting yourself during a domestic dispute incident.
That’s the legal predicament Marissa Alexander was convicted on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Jacksonville, Fla. in 2012.
Alexander fired a warning shot in the direction of her estranged husband and his two kids after she said they had been fighting and he threatened to kill her that day. The shots hit the wall and no injuries resulted from the gunfire.
She was sentenced to 20 years, three counts served concurrently adding up to 60 years in prison, but an appeals court tossed the conviction, claiming the judge made a mistake in shifting the burden to Alexander to prove she acted in self-defense. The jury found Alexander guilty in under 15 minutes of debate.
The same court that ordered a retrial appealed the 60 year sentencing and said that when a defendant is convicted of multiple counts of the same crime, judges must make the sentences consecutive, not concurrent, which would triple Alexander’s original 20 year conviction.
Others, such as Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei, disagree and argue that the court is simply following Florida’s state sentencing laws, and that 60 years is the proper sentencing.
The prosecutor for Alexander’s case is Angela Corey, the same prosecutor who has gained local and national infamy for her rulings on the George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn cases in Florida.
Corey initially offered Alexander a deal of three years in prison if she pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, but Alexander rejected the plea claiming she hadn’t done anything wrong.
Alexander was not eligible for Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” defense which is an NRA-backed law that provides protection to those seeking to claim self defense after legal altercations involving the use of firearms.
While several states have their own “Stand Your Ground” laws, this defense has become particularly controversial in Florida. The cases of George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn are being compared to Alexander’s because they all are based on the inconsistencies of this defense.
Zimmerman shot and killed 17 year old Trayvon Martin, who Zimmerman attacked because he found the teen to be suspicious while walking the streets of his neighborhood one evening,was able to use the Stand Your Ground defense in his case. Charges against him have been acquitted.
Similarly, Dunn fired multiple shots and killed 19 year old Jordan Davis for playing music too loudly in his SUV parked at a convenience store and, while he didn’t use the Stand Your Ground defense, Dunn claimed self defense in his case. He has been convicted on three counts of attempted murder and then some, but his exact sentencing has yet to be determined by Corey and the court and it’s estimated that he will spend only 60 years in prison, the same sentencing that Alexander currently faces.
Both of these men shot and killed innocent teens.
Alexander, on the other hand, did not kill or even injure anyone and has been denied protection from Stand Your Ground. She could spend the same amount of time in jail as Dunn while Zimmerman walks free.
Congresswoman Corrine Brown is one of many supporters who believe that 60 years is in no way the proper result for Alexander and are demanding that those in power, especially Corey, exercise their legal discretion with fairness and justice in Alexander’s case.
A group of Florida ministers also support Alexander’s case and have been trying to push Corey to offer Alexander the original three-year sentence once more.
Alexander posted $200,000 bail and has been released on strict house arrest including the use of an ankle location-monitoring device for the time being.
The retrial is scheduled for July 2014; however, Alexander’s attorney Bruce Zimet has been working toward another chance at proving that Alexander should be protected under the Stand Your Ground law, arguing that erroneous instructions regarding self defense were given to the jury originally.
Circuit Judge James Daniel announced a hearing will take place May 16 to determine if Alexander will be granted this protection. If she is protected by Stand Your Ground, immunity will be granted and a new trial will not follow, MSNBC reports.