Marissa Alexander Walks (Mostly) Free From Prison After Serving As Example of Racial Bias in Stand Your Ground Law

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Marissa Alexander requests second Stand Your Ground trialThe torturous ordeal of Florida mother Marissa Alexander has nearly come to an end, as Alexander was freed from prison yesterday after serving three years for firing a warning shot to scare off her abusive husband.

Alexander was united with her three children, but the terms of her release stipulate that she must submit to two more years of house arrest with an ankle monitor—which she must pay for—and will be forbidden from leaving her home except to go to work, church, her children’s school, and appointments with doctors or the court.

Alexander’s case served as a dramatic example of how difficult it can be for Black defendants to use the “Stand Your Ground” defense—studies have shown Black defendants are less likely to be successful when using it. Alexander was denied the right to use it during her trial, although she said she feared for her safety and the safety of her children when she fired the shot. But George Zimmerman was able to walk free after killing Trayvon by convincing a jury that he was afraid for his life after he got into an altercation with Martin in Sanford, Florida.

Alexander was found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was looking at a possible 60 years in prison. During the August 2010 incident, Alexander was attacked by her former husband, who questioned her fidelity and the paternity of their new child. She was chased, strangled and verbally threatened. When she was able to break away, Alexander fired a warning shot toward the ceiling

In November she pleaded guilty to assault in exchange for credit for time served. Since she had already spent 1,030 days in jail, she had to return to jail for another 65 days, which ended yesterday.

Circuit Court Judge James Daniel yesterday acknowledged the national attention surrounding Alexander’s cause, but said his decision to let her go free was “not based on any public opinion of any larger issue of public interest or social concern, but on the specific facts of the case.”  

Alexander’s most ardent supporters had formed the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign, with branches across the country bringing attention to her cause and a website, freemarissanow.org. The Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander led a recent major fundraising push that collected $11,000 to help Alexander cover the cost of her ankle monitor for the two-year period of home detention.

“We are thrilled that Marissa will finally be reunited with her children, her family, and her community,” Sumayya Coleman, co-leader of the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign, said in a statement. “Today’s hearing revealed that Marissa intends to attend school to become a paralegal and she is a wonderful mother to her children who urgently need her.  Amazingly, the State continued their campaign of punishment by trying to add two more years of probation on top of the two years of house detention included in the plea. Fortunately, they failed. Marissa and her family will need time to begin recovering from this arduous and traumatic experience. It’s been a long and painful journey and, though her release from jail is definitely a win—no 60 years—the journey of seeking ultimate freedom is not over.”

Coleman said the campaign will now focus on expunging Alexander’s criminal record and push for legislation to help victims of domestic violence who choose to save their lives by force.

 

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