As the country is rife with debate over the conclusion of the George Zimmerman trial, in which the former was found not guilty and acquitted of all charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, we are reminded of the story of a mother of three from Jacksonville, Florida who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a “warning shot” at her husband after he had physically assaulted her.
According to a sworn deposition taken in November 2010, Marissa Alexander‘s husband Rico Gray said that on the night of August 1st 2010, he and Alexander had gotten into a fight after he read text messages Alexander had sent to her first husband.
Gray and Alexander were already estranged at the time, with Alexander having filed a restraining order against him after he had previously been arrested on assault charges, and according to Alexander’s father, she had been living at her mother’s since the birth of the couple’s daughter just nine days earlier. Also, Gray, a long-haul trucker, said he spent the night before the incident in his truck.
Family members said thinking Gray was gone, Alexander went to their former home to retrieve some of her things and when she arrived at the residence, an argument ensued and Gray allegedly strangled Alexander. Gray also called Alexander names, and said to her, “If I can’t have you, nobody is going to have you,” and blocked her from exiting the bathroom.
After she was able to break free, fearing for her life, Alexander then went straight for the garage, where she retrieve a gun that she legally owned from her vehicle’s glove box before returning inside and firing off a “warning shot” into the wall, which ricocheted into the ceiling.
During the trial the following year, Gray testified that he saw Alexander point the gun straight at him and looked away before she fired the shot. He said she was the aggressor in the violent encounter, and he begged her to put the gun away.
In August 2011, a judge threw out Alexander’s “stand your ground” self-defense claim, telling her that she could have run out of the house to escape her husband, but instead went for her gun and came back inside and fired it.
Alexander was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and because she discharged a firearm during a violent encounter, the case fell under Florida’s “10-20-life” law, which was enacted in 1999 and comes with a required 20-year sentence for firing a gun during the commission of certain felonies.
Alexander was initially offered plea deal that would have resulted in a 3-year prison sentence, but she rejected that and chose to go to trial, where a jury deliberated for a mere 12 minutes before convicting her of attempted murder
“The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today,” U.S. Rep. Brown (D-Jacksonville) said in a statement on May 11. “One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the ‘Stand Your Ground Law’ will not apply to them…The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently.”
Now that Trayvon Martin’s story is back in the media spotlight following this weekend’s “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, people are wondering why Marissa Alexander wasn’t allowed to exercise her right to stand her ground, but George Zimmerman was.
If George Zimmerman was able to claim self-defense and get away with murdering someone, why was Marissa Anderson sentenced to two decades in prison just for firing a gun?
Life isn’t supposed to be fair, but isn’t that was “justice” is supposed to be? Fair and equal treatment towards all? If so, this is a terrible, terrible example.