Justice for Marissa Alexander is proving elusive, after a Florida judge last week ruled that she couldn’t use a “stand your ground” defense in demonstrating why she fired a warning shot to stave off her abusive husband.
To highlight the double standard seemingly at play in Florida, supporters of Alexander have announced that next week will be Standing Our Ground Week of Action, which will include a week of programs in Jacksonville and other communities that make the following demands: Alexander’s freedom, women’s right to control their own bodies and lives, and an end to mandatory minimum sentencing and mass incarceration.
“Yet again, Florida refuses to free this survivor of domestic violence and undermines women’s right to self defense, though it failed to convict two white men for the murder of two innocent black teen boys,” the Free Marissa Now organizers said in a press statement, referring to the cases of George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, both found not guilty of murdering Black boys. “It appears that Florida courts place less value on a young Black mother’s fear in the midst of a life-threatening attack and more value on the anger and unsupported fear of two white men.”
Circuit Judge James Daniel has denied Alexander’s request for a “stand your ground” defense, which allows the use of deadly force instead of retreating if the person fears for his or her life. If Alexander’s actions had been deemed to fall under the “stand your ground” law, the charges against her would have been dropped.
Alexander will now have a second trial for firing the warning shot, and the jury will have to decide whether she acted in self-defense.
In 2012, Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in jail after she fired a gun in the direction of her husband Rico Gray and his two children. Though no one was injured, Alexander was still convicted of aggravated assault.
Alexander was granted a second trial after it was determined the first judge did not properly instruct the jury dealing with her case.
During the first trial, Alexander was denied “stand your ground” immunity. But claiming they had evidence that Alexander was abused by her husband, her new legal team once again unsuccessfully tried to invoke the “stand your ground” defense. Her attorney also provided evidence that suggested the children were pressured by their father to lie about his history of violence and the incident that took place that night. It was not clear, however, what details the children may have allegedly lied about.
“Nine days after a premature birth, Marissa Alexander harmed no one when she fired a warning shot to stop another life-threatening attack by her estranged husband,” the Free Marissa Now organizers said. “She faces possibly 60 years in prison as a result of prosecution by the state of Florida. Is Marissa being used as an example?
“Incarceration happens more frequently when Black people are convicted of crimes, but women of color who are victims of domestic violence serve more time for self-defense. Female incarceration rates show 78 percent of inmates are Black and Latina, and most women in prison have been victims of abuse. This should not happen to anyone. Mass incarceration of women is a lucrative business at the stake of women’s lives and the well-being of families.”