It’s been a year-and-a-half since Marissa Alexander felt a Florida breeze whip across her face as a free woman. But although she’s not yet technically “free,” Alexander was able to spend Thanksgiving at home with her children after a posted a $200,000 bond.
Alexander’s case rose to national prominence in the midst of the George Zimmerman trial, when the public discovered that this slight young mother of three was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot in 2010 near her 245 lb. husband as he was about to attack, something he had done on many occasions. While Alexander, 33, sat in a Florida jail cell, Zimmerman stalked the streets as a free man after killing an unarmed 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin. Many felt pointed out the stark differences in the cases, and pointed to the fact that Alexander is black and Zimmerman is (half) white as the reason for the widely divergent treatment under Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.
Alexander was able to join her three children yesterday after a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Alexander deserves a new trial because the judge handling her case did not properly instruct the jury regarding what is needed to prove self-defense.
“I am so pleased and happy that Marissa can spend this holiday and hopefully many more to come with her family and children,” U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) told the Florida Times-Union.
In a September decision written by Judge Robert Benton of the 1st District Court of Appeal, the panel said the instructions constituted a “fundamental error” by requiring Alexander to prove self-defense “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while in reality the prosecution had the burden to prove that Alexander was guilty of aggravated assault.
“Because the jury instructions on self-defense were fundamental error, we reverse” the conviction, the appellate panel said.
But the panel also said the trial judge was right to block Alexander from using the state’s “stand your ground” law to defend her actions.
On Wednesday, as a Duval County circuit court judge granted her request to be released on bond as she awaits retrial, the judge imposed restrictions—Alexander is subject to electronic monitoring and is not allowed to leave home unless to go to court or to handle a medical emergency.
Alexander previously was out on bond in 2011, but prosecutors accused her of violating her bond conditions by meeting up with her husband and trying to sway his trial testimony. That encounter resulted in a fight that left her husband’s “left eye swollen and bloodied.”
Alexander’s bond was revoked and she was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading no contest.
Circuit Judge James H. Daniel cited that incident in his decision to impose restrictions on Alexander, but he said that 2011 incident was offset by the fact that enough time had passed and that Alexander had served her misdemeanor sentence.