WJXT-TV, Channel 4 in Jacksonville reports that a Florida judge has ordered Marissa Alexander to be transferred from state prison in Marion County to Duval County, which should take place within the next two weeks. A status hearing on her case is set for October 29. Bruce Zimet, her attorney, plans to file a motion for a bond to be set as she waits for a new trial. Prosecutors had until October 16 to file the request for a new trial.
The station reports that the Florida Attorney General’s office issued a statement saying they have no intention of dropping the charges, and that the office will “continue to pursue justice for our two child victims and their father who were endangered by the shot the defendant fired at them”.
The Jacksonville, Florida mother of three who shot into a wall in the heat of an argument turned 33 years old on September 14, serving a 20-year sentence behind bars for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Under Florida’s 10-20-Life statutes, anyone who pulls a gun during the commission of a crime gets a mandatory 10-year sentence. Firing a gun during a crime draws 20 years.
The appellate court reversed her conviction on September 26, ruling that jury instructions on self-defense were erroneous, and ordered a new trial. But there won’t be another stand-your-ground hearing. In a stand your ground immunity hearing before the last trial, Marissa was denied immunity, and the appellate court affirmed that ruling still stands.
State Senator Dwight Bullard had sent letters to three members of the governor’s cabinet In August, requesting that Marissa be granted a pardon and released from prison. Supporters had hoped she would have a chance to go before the board when they met September 25.
Unfortunately, Marissa is not on any schedule or agenda for the Florida Clemency Board this month, and it is yet to be seen if or when she could be scheduled to appear. Under Florida law, a person must serve at least half of their sentences before they can get clemency.
Her story starts in September 2009, when Marissa, a software engineer and divorced mother of then-8 year-old twins, was dating an admitted woman abuser named Rico Gray. She was attacked and beaten by him so badly she was hospitalized. Though she got an injunction for protection against domestic violence, the couple got back together, and were married six months later.
Marissa went to live with her mother during the last few weeks of a pregnancy. On July 22, 2010, she gave birth to a premature baby girl. On the evening of July 31, nine days later, she left the newborn at the hospital, went to the couple’s home in Jacksonville, and stayed overnight.
The next morning, August 1, Gray arrived at the house with two of his sons, aged 9 and 13. The argument started when she gave Gray her cell phone so that he could see pictures of their new daughter. Then she went to use the bathroom. In the phone he found text messages from Marissa to her ex-husband, Leonard Alexander. Gray got suspicious about the baby’s paternity, which started an argument. Marissa claims he broke into the bathroom, pushing, choking, and threatening to kill her.
Marissa said she pushed past him and retreated to the garage. She claimed that the garage door would not open, and that she had left her keys in the house, causing her to go back inside. In either case, she grabbed her handgun from the glove compartment (the gun was legal, and she had a concealed-carry permit) and went back inside.
Marissa claimed Gray told her, “Bitch, I’ll kill you”, so she fired a warning shot. But according to the court order denying her motion to dismiss, she had pointed the gun in the direction of “all three victims” — Gray and his two young sons — and fired a shot “nearly missing [Gray’s] head.”
Gray who has admitted to abusing “all five of my babies’ mamas”, reported that before Marissa went to the garage, she had said, “I got something for your ass.” When she came back in with the gun, he put his hands in the air. After the shot, he ran out the front door with his sons and called 911.
“She said she’s ‘sick of this sh*t,’” he told the dispatcher. “She shot at me, inside the house, while my boys were standing right next to me. Lord have mercy.” Marissa never called the police, perhaps thinking she would be protected under stand-your-ground law.
But prosecutors claimed Marissa fired the gun out of anger, and not due to fear, which is necessary to claim stand-your-ground. She claimed the garage door wouldn’t open, but police found that it would. She had an avenue of retreat (she didn’t have to – stand your ground relieves that duty) but instead went back into the house with the gun.
Marissa had several legal missteps during and since the incident that brought about her sentencing, say prosecutors, who contend the major ones were declining a plea deal that would have given her a 3-year sentence, and disobeying court orders to not have any contact with Gray – 4 months after getting out on bond for the shooting incident, she went to Gray’s house to get him to sign papers about insurance for their baby, and they got into another fight. She was arrested again – on domestic battery- and entered a plea of no contest.
In her appeal, Marissa maintained that the trial court abused its discretion, by giving instructions to the jury that incorrectly put the burden on her to establish – beyond a reasonable doubt – that Gray was committing or about to commit an aggravated battery when she fired the shot.
Marissa had never been arrested before the shooting, but did stupid things, with very serious consequences. Whether her initial iniquity was out of anger or fear should be irrelevant now. Perhaps it could even be said she has paid it forward to society by opening valuable discussions on stand-your-ground laws and on domestic violence, from which our society has learned lessons, and that Marissa can productively evolve back into this society of which she is a victim of.
- Marissa Alexander Gets A New Trial, Can’t Use Stand Your Ground (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)
- “March for Dignity” Seeks Release of Marissa Alexander & Resignation of Prosecutor Angela Corey (democracynow.org)
- Bullard asks Cabinet to pardon Marissa Alexander (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Senator seeks to pardon Marissa Alexander (news4jax.com)