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Unbelievable: Florida Stand Your Ground defense rejected for mother only firing ‘warning shot’

ALEXIS TAYLOR | 7/22/2013, 12:51 a.m.
No one was hurt or killed when 31-year-old Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot into the air on Aug. 1, ...
Marissa Alexander, a Florida resident, was convicted of aggravated assault for firing a warning shot, despite the Stand Your Ground law, July 12, 2012. Florida Courier

The Afro-American Newspaper

No one was hurt or killed when 31-year-old Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot into the air on Aug. 1, 2010.

But she remains in a Florida prison after being sentenced July 12, 2012 for a conviction of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

A Florida judge rejected her self-defense assertion. The mother of three children who had no police record was found guilty of firing a shot into a wall as a warning shot to ward off her allegedly abusive husband against whom she had a protective order.

She told police she was in fear for her life, as she had been many times before at the hands of her husband, Rico Gray. Gray had flown into a jealous rage that night after seeing text messages and baby pictures sent by Alexander to an ex-husband.

Seeking refuge during a final physical altercation, Alexander ran into the garage only to realize that she couldn’t get away – the garage door was broken.

Her next decision would cost her the next twenty years of her life. She re-entered the house to escape a different way, but this time she had a gun for protection.

Her warning shot came after her husband advanced toward her, screaming and cursing, still refusing to leave. It would earn her an aggravated assault charge that, along with the use of a deadly weapon in the act, triggered the mandatory minimum sentence handed down May 11 after the denial of her Stand Your Ground defense.

Since the beginning of the case, politicians and citizens alike have cried for justice, but in the months since Alexander’s sentencing, support has waned for the mother of three who had a gun permit for the weapon.

“The imbalance in this case was abundantly clear in the courtroom,” Congresswoman Corrine Brown said in a May 11 statement. Brown said the decision, handed down the same day, sent strong messages to the way the American justice system works in Florida.

“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,” she said. “The second message is that if you are Black, the system will treat you differently.”

“Abused women like Marissa, who has a master’s degree and no prior record, need support and counseling so they don’t find themselves in these situations to begin with,” she added. “Arresting and prosecuting them when no one was hurt does not help anyone. Even worse, mandatory minimum sentences just make the system appear arbitrary and cruel.”

The circumstances of the case were made clear in a November 2010 deposition given by Alexander’s husband, Gray. In the document, Gray details how he used physical force to restrain his estranged wife from leaving the home, and refused to vacate the premises even after Alexander locked herself in the bathroom, repeatedly requesting that he leave.

Aside from admitting to beating nearly every woman he was romantically involved with, “except one,” Gray also said that that the physical and emotional abuse was getting increasingly worse for Alexander.