Florida woman given 20 years for firing shot in domestic dispute maybe be released on bail next week.
The plight of Marissa Alexander, drew national attention because of perceived parallels to the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense and was acquitted in July of second-degree murder.
Alexander claimed that she feared for her life during a fight with her estranged husband, Rico Gray, who was under a restraining order.
She testified that she fled into a garage and got a gun but couldn’t leave the house because the garage door was stuck. She testified that she went back into the house and fired the shot.
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.
She claimed that 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.”
Afterwards, she claimed that 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, she claimed, her husband saw the gun and charged at her “in a rage” saying, “Bitch, 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.”
The jury rejected the self-defense claim and Alexander was sentenced under the state’s 10-20-life law, sparking outrage 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.”
Corey’s office argued that Alexander, who had not been living in the home for two months leading up to the shooting, provoked the incident, and that there was no proof the garage door was broken, Alexander’s rationale for not leaving the altercation. Her office offered her a three-year plea deal in the case that was rejected.
Alexander testified about three other alleged incidents of physical abuse by her husband, including one that led to his arrest. Several witnesses claimed to have seen the injuries she allegedly suffered and the final defense witness in the case testified that she met the criteria for “battered person’s syndrome.”
In a statement, prosecutors wrote, “The defendant’s conviction was reversed on a legal technicality. … We are gratified that the court affirmed the defendant’s Stand Your Ground ruling. This means the defendant will not have another Stand Your Ground hearing. The case will be back in the Circuit Court in the Fourth Judicial Circuit at the appropriate time.”
Alexander’s supporters want state prosecutors to drop the case. Prosecutors have said that Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.
Prosecutors said Thursday that they would oppose bail.
“The State Attorney’s Office has no intention of dropping the very serious charges against the defendant,” Jackelyn Bernard, a spokeswoman for the state prosecutor handling the case, said in a statement. “The SAO will continue to pursue justice for our two child victims and their father who were endangered by the shot the defendant fired at them.”
A lawyer for Alexander did not immediately answer a request for comment.
This story was originally published on Thu Oct 31, 2013 12:15 PM EDT