Today, almost every state that had Jim Crow laws from 1876 to 1965 now has some form of “shoot first” or stand your ground law. In the history of the United States of America, no practice of law has caused more controversy, grief, injustice, and shame than Jim Crow laws, which were state and local laws enforcing racial segregation in the South.
The practice existed for 75 years, until 1965, after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Jim Crow laws followed the 1800–1866 Black Codes, which had previously restricted the civil rights and liberties of African-Americans.
During it’s time, Jim Crow law encouraged prejudice, enabled discrimination, and deprived Black Americans of even the most basic qualities of life.
Segregation by race affected everything from the U.S. military and federal facilities to all public places, including schools, restrooms, restaurants, housing, and public transportation. Even drinking fountains were segregated.
The goal of this tweet posted on twitter was to show the irony of having stand your ground laws in today’s racially charged society, and many tweeps noticed it. I didn’t do the graphic. Props to the creator.
A paradigm of just how badly stand your ground can go wrong is when a Black man brutally attacked by a group of White men is charged with murder, testifies that he didn’t intend to kill one, but did, and then a judge decides he is not immune from prosecution – because the self-defense was unintentional.
It happened in Georgia, and the story of Jesse Murray, as revealed in media and police reports, goes beyond blatant disregard for the stand your ground law he tried to use, after becoming the victim of a brutal racist attack.
It reportedly all begins at a sports bar in Clayton County, Georgia, where 33-year-old Murray met with his estranged wife, Traci, for a meal, to discuss their relationship and children. The couple had once been regular customers of the business and were known by employees there.
After their meal, the Murrays tried their hand at a game of pool while having a few drinks, as a party was taking place nearby. Nathan Adams, a White male who was allegedly drunk, along with a woman, stumbled into Traci, and Murray, who is Black, tried to stop them from falling.
Adams – who just happened to be an ex-cop – offered no apologies, but allegedly warned Murray not to touch him again, as Murray stood between Traci and Adams and told him to get away from his wife.
A drunken Adams reportedly told Murray, “You need to f*cking leave” as four other White men, apparently Adams’ friends, appeared to surround Murray, and Adams pushed him in the chest.
Murray said he walked away from the men, went outside to his car, grabbed his licensed handgun and headed back toward the entrance to go back inside to bring his wife Traci out. He put the gun in his pocket.
As he tried to go back into the bar, Adams’ group blocked the door. Murray told the men to let his wife come out of the bar, but they refused, and instead moved toward him into the parking lot.
Several men accused of attacking Murray reportedly claimed they were concerned Murray was going to get a gun, had made threatening statements, and had called the woman who was with Adams an offensive name.
WSB-TV reports that Murray testified, “I was scared. I was definitely, at that moment, I was in fear. I was scared,” He also said, “They just made trouble happen for no reason.”
Adams threw a punch at Murray and all four men jumped in, kicking punching, and tackling Murray to the ground, then choking him as Adams held him by the arm.
In chilling court testimony, Murray testified that, “As he [Adams] was pulling on me I just remember him grunting.” Murray said soon after that Adams appeared to reach for (or his hands got close to) the gun in Murray’s pocket.
“At that point, when I pulled back, that’s when my gun discharges.” Murray was then able to escape – as one of the men shot at him – and run to a nearby business, from where he called police.
When police arrived, Murray surrendered his weapon and tried to explain what happened, but was handcuffed by the responding officer. While Murray was cuffed, one of Adams’ friends allegedly ran up and punched Murray in the head.
Responding officers didn’t arrest the man who punched Murray, who was then placed into a patrol car, as a white officer (off-duty and out of uniform) – who was another of Adams’ friends – arrived on the scene, and shouted, “Do you know who we are? We’re going to fry your black ass!” reports rollingout.com.
Adams was pronounced dead at a hospital. Murray was transported to jail, where he was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault. No one else was charged with a crime that night.
After a stand your ground hearing in June, Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert R. Collier denied stand your ground immunity for Murray, stating that Murray was not in fear for his life. If convicted, he now faces up to 15 years in prison.
The judge responded that it doesn’t appear to the court “that the other men in the vicinity were acting in such a way that would cause the defendant to reasonably believe that deadly force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or a third party.”
The Judge’s ruling also states that, “The court cannot reconcile the defendants asking for immunity under a self-defense statute, by stating that the use of deadly force was justified, and then also stating that the use of deadly force was unintentional.”
Murray’s defense attorney Mawuli Mel Davis plans to file a Motion to Reconsider.
As the trial of Michael Dunn gets underway on February 3, Lucia Mcbath, the mother of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, is making the rounds of network interviews, preparing for Dunn’s trial and telling the story of her fight to change or end stand your ground laws to anyone who’ll listen.
Yet, Mcbath and Jordan’s father Ron Davis have been tirelessly and emotionally sharing their story across the country since the tragedy, to gain support and awareness in the struggle for gun control and against stand your ground laws.
It’s happening all across America. Whether by a gun, a knife, or other means, far too many people are killed every year by others who have the option to invoke “stand your ground” immunity to try and avoid prosecution.
These amended self-defense laws can allow someone to manipulate a scenario that allows them to cause great bodily harm or take another’s life.
The Movement to End Stand Your Ground is releasing a new 35-second video, “All Across America” today, with images of unarmed “stand your ground” victims, to help call attention to this. Check it out, then share it with everyone you know:
2013 was the year stand your ground law became a national controversial issue. A case could fall into this category if a person who takes a life claims self-defense under stand your ground laws or may have the option to invoke the law. Here are some of the most shocking incidents that made headlines:
CLICK THE VICTIM’S NAME FOR MORE DETAILS OF THE INCIDENT
On November 27, 2013 Ronald Westbrook, a 72-year-old man with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, wandered four miles away from home with his dogs in the middle of the night. He jiggled the doorknob and rang the doorbell of a home in Walker County, Georgia, alerting the resident, Joe Hendrix, 34, who went outside.
Hendrix said that he saw a figure walking toward him in the darkness, ordered the man to stop several times, and fired his weapon, killing Westbrook, who was not armed. Hendrix was cleared of all charges on February 28, 2014.
On November 2nd, 2013 Renisha Mcbride, a 19-year-old woman fresh out of high school, had wrecked her car in predominately white Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights. She may have been confused or impaired, but walked into the neighborhood. She didn’t come out alive.
Theodore Wafer, a 46-year-old resident, claims he heard banging on his door, went to the door with a 12-gauge shotgun, and Mcbride, who was unarmed, was shot in the face. Wafer said the gun went off accidentally. He was found guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter with intent but without malice and felony use of a firearm on Aug. 7, 2014 and received a sentence of 17 to 32 years in prison.
After getting off from work at a restaurant on October 6th, 2013, 22-year-old Jandei Cherry and a couple of co-workers go to the beach in Hollywood, Florida for a pre-dawn swim. While there, Jandei got into some kind of argument with one of the others. When he came out of the water after skinny-dipping, his clothes, cell phone, and other belongings were gone.
Jandei started a ten-mile trek home without his clothes on. A motorist, Duke Laguerre, 29, driving with his girlfriend, saw him, turned around, and claims that after asking the naked man if he was OK several times, Cherry, who was not armed, held on to the window as Laguerre tried to roll it up. Laguerre said he fired a shot, shattering the window and striking Cherry, who later died at a hospital. Laguerre has never been arrested or charged.
Jennifer Alfonso, 26 and Derek Medina, 31, appeared to be a loving married couple, from the content smiles they posted in facebook pictures. But on August 8th, 2013 something went terribly wrong in Miami, and friends found a picture Medina posted on facebook of Alfonso’s dead body.
Medina had shot Alfonso several times, then posted a rant saying his wife was punching him, and “I’m not going to stand anymore with the abuse.” Neither could Alfonso; she was lying dead face up on the kitchen floor. Medina claims Alfonso had pulled a kitchen knife on him minutes before he killed her.
On July 22nd, 2013 Shanequia Mcdonald, a 23-year-old Houston woman pulled into a gas station and was approached by 58-year-old Lewis Daniel, who she claims made unwanted sexual advances toward her.
In surveillance video Daniel can be seen approaching Mcdonald, who claims he had a knife in his hand. She backs up, he takes a few steps back, and she is seen going into the trunk of her car, taking out a shotgun, then, as Daniel moves toward her, she fires a shot, killing him instantly.
What happens next is equally shocking: Mcdonald calmly walks back to the trunk, puts the shotgun inside, gets a camera out of her car, takes a photo of Daniels’ body, gets back into her car, and drives off.
(This article was updated on 5/6/2016 for timely reference, then again on 5/31/2016 to include the outcomes of each case if available)
[UPDATE: January 16. 2014 – Ted Wafer entered a plea of not guilty on January 15, and a trial is scheduled to begin June 2nd]
A man charged in the shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha Mcbride last month after she banged on his door will face trial on charges of second-degree murder after two days of testimony before Judge David Turfe to decide whether the case should go to trial.
Mcbride, a 5′ 4″, 2012 Southfield High School graduate, had wrecked her car in the early morning hours of November 2nd. Toxicology reports show she had a blood alcohol content of 0.218%, more than twice the legal limit, and a trace amount of marijuana in her body.
Mcbride walked up to the home of Theodore Wafer, 46, in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Wafer fired through his door, and reportedly claimed he thought it was a burglar and that his shotgun discharged by accident. He has been free on bond since he was charged with second-degree murder manslaughter, and felony firearm on November 15th. The families of both Wafer and Mcbride attended the hearing.
A medical examiner, a crime scene reconstruction expert, a police detective, firearms expert, witnesses to the car accident, and friends of Mcbride were called to testify during the hearing. The defense appeared to try and sway blame for the incident to Mcbride, using her state of mind that night to display aggressive behavior that would justify Wafer’s actions.
Evidence included the 12-gauge shotgun used to kill Mcbride on his porch, the screen door through which the fatal shot was fired, an NRA pamphlet, shotgun shells, and photos of Mcbride’s damaged car showing airbags deployed as well as a cracked windshield.
The screen door had smudges allegedly caused by Mcbride.The windshield appeared to have a web pattern as though hit from a center point that spread out. Det. Sgt. Stephen Gurka said it’s possible her head hit the windshield.
Assistant Wayne County Medical Examiner Kilak Kesha testified that a person could be incoherent, confused or more aggressive due to any brain damage.
He said they have not been able to establish whether Mcbride had any head injuries from the car accident that could have affected her state of mind, since the gunshot wound to her head caused damage that eliminated any brain damage determination. He said that there was no exit wound.
David Balash, a firearms expert, said the fatal shot was fired from close range, and it may have been from as close as two feet away.
A witness, Carmen Beasly, who called 911 after hearing “a loud boom” outside her house, testified that she went outside and saw McBride holding her head and staggering as she walked away from a 2004 Ford Focus that had crashed into Beasly’s husband’s car.
She said Mcbride came back 5 or 10 minutes later. She said she talked to Mcbride, who had blood on her hands, possibly from her arm, but that Mcbride didn’t know where she was.
Beasly asked if she was OK, and Mcbride said yes, then searched for her cell phone but couldn’t find it. Beasly described Mcbride as “discombobulated” and heard Mcbride say more than once that “I just want to go home”, but that the young lady walked away again as Beasly was calling 911 a second time. Beasly and another witness testified that Mcbride was never hostile.
No one knows Mcbride’s whereabouts from 1:30 a.m. until about 4:42 a.m. that morning, when Wafer called police to say he had shot someone.
A friend who was with Mcbride earlier in the night said she had left Mcbride’s home after they drank half a bottle of vodka and got into an argument. Another friend said she was supposed to pick him up from work, and they had spoken by phone, but that Mcbride’s voice was slurred, as if she was drunk.
He said he wondered if someone had slipped something into a drink she may have had. Both friends testified that Mcbride’s actions that fateful night were uncharacteristic.
In ordering the case held over for trial, Judge Turfe said Wafer could have avoided the confrontation. “He could have not answered the door. He could have called for help. He chose to shoot rather than not answer the door,” Judge Turfe said. He said the defendant made a bad choice when there were other reasonable opportunities.
Based on testimony and reasoning, Judge Turfe said that he believes the prosecutors met the burden of proof showing probable cause to go to trial on charges that Wafer committed the crimes of second-degree murder and manslaughter. The trial date is set for June 2, 2014.
In a case that could have stand your ground implications, a young man running home naked after his clothes were taken died after being shot by a motorist who has never been charged.
Jandei Cherry, 22, a Pembroke Pines, Florida man, had been skinny-dipping on a beach with co-workers after getting off from work at a restaurant, and got into some type of argument with one of them, who took off with his belongings, leaving Cherry to take a ten-mile run home with no clothes on.
Cherry was spotted running down a Hollywood, Florida street naked sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. on October 6th by Duke Laguerre, 29, and a female passenger, who circled back and stopped to ask if he was OK. Police said there is no indication the two men knew each other. There are few details of what happened next, since there were no other witnesses.
But, according to documents obtained by The Sun-Sentinel, Laguerre told police he asked several times if Cherry was OK, and that Cherry grabbed the car window, pulling on it as Laguerre tried to roll the window up.
Laguerre said Cherry then reached into his car and grabbed his shoulder. Laguerre reached into his console, grabbed a Glock 9 mm handgun and fired. shattering the window. Laguerre drove away, called a friend, and then his stepfather, who told him to call 911.
Cherry was shot in the stomach. A passing policeman found him on the ground in the pre-dawn darkness. He was awake and talking but later pronounced dead at a hospital. Laguerre returned to the scene.
His passenger corroborated his story and said she recorded some of the incident on her cellphone. Cherry’s co-worker brought the victim’s clothes, wallet, a skateboard, and other belongings to the restaurant the next day.
He leaves behind a 3-year-old daughter and a distressed mother. Now, his family wants answers, and someone held accountable. They wonder why Laguerre has not been arrested. The family has started a facebook page, Justice4Jandei, and a petition on Change.org calling on Florida authorities to charge Laguerre in the case.
UPDATE: This article has been edited to include the words “never been charged” into the first sentence.
In a tale of two murders, the victims were very much alike. Both had the same teenage passions that all 17-year-olds have. Both teens were born in February, both were killed (though miles apart) in Florida, and both in the same year.
Both had loving parents who had divorced, leaving a void that only a child’s heart could feel. And both of these 17-year-old teens were black. Yet, one is now a household name. The other, some people may have never heard of – yet.
They now share a common legacy. Each was killed by someone who had the option to invoke Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law. The shooter in each case has never showed or expressed public remorse, and neither shooter claimed stand your ground immunity. At least, in one case – not yet.
Yet, the differences are all too clear. Trayvon Martin, whose name is now a legend, may have even been considered ‘thuggish’ by some standards.
He was alone when he was killed in a quiet apartment complex on a rainy February night in Sanford, Florida two years ago by George Zimmerman, a Peruvian-white man, with no apparent witnesses to the shot being fired. Zimmerman waited for police, was questioned, and released, but wasn’t arrested until months later, after a public outcry.
The trial lasted a month, and Zimmerman was acquitted on July 13, 2013, leading to protests, marches, petitions, boycott threats, demonstrations, a fear of riots across America, and a nationwide call from media, civil rights groups, and others to end stand your ground laws.
Jordan Davis, in comparison, could possibly be considered a ‘choirboy’ in comparison. The family attorney, John Philips, has said Davis was an “all-American kid”.
Nine months after Martin was killed, Davis sat in the back seat next to a friend in an SUV, with another friend in the front passenger seat, waiting for the driver who had gone inside the store at a bustling, lit-up Jacksonville gas station the night after Thanksgiving, on November 23, 2012.
A Volkswagen Jetta pulled into a parking spot next to the SUV booming Chief Keef’s rap music. The driver, a 47-year-old white guy named Michael Dunn, waited as his girlfriend went inside the store to buy wine. Dunn later told police he “ordered them to turn the music down”.
According to Rolling Stone, the friend in the front passenger seat turned the sound down, but Davis reached over the console and cranked it back up. He and Dunn threw f-bombs at each other as the SUV driver got back into the driver’s seat.
Dunn said, “You’re not gonna talk to me like that”, reached into his glove compartment for a 9mm gun, and began firing, killing Davis in the back seat. Dunn was arrested the next day, after police traced his license plate, and has been in jail awaiting trial ever since.
While Dunn has not yet claimed stand your ground immunity. He has claimed he felt threatened and claims he saw the barrel of a gun in the SUV, but no gun was ever found.
A real test case for stand-your-ground is coming early next year. Dunn’s trial, originally scheduled to start September 23, was rescheduled to February 3, 2014 at the behest of his attorneys.
Maybe this will be America’s real wake up call, so that many people who still think stand-your-ground law is all good will see the loopholes, see how it actually jeopardizes society, realize it is in fact a very dangerous, flawed law, and take action by starting over to change it.
In 1992, Yoshihiro “Yoshi” Hattori, 16 years old, an American Field Service international exchange student from Japan, thought that when he came to America he would be welcomed. Instead, he was gunned down from five feet away with a .44 caliber handgun by a Louisiana homeowner, then-31 year-old Rodney Peairs, – who later walked free.
This “stand your ground”-type incident sent the gun-control debate into international overdrive, gaining world wide attention two decades before Trayvon Martin was killed. The shooting was considered justifiable homicide under Louisiana’s 1976 “shoot-the-burglar” law, which allows a person to kill an intruder if he “reasonably believes” the intruder is trying to enter the house and might use violence against the occupants.
Yoshi had been in the United States for several weeks. His American host, 16-year-old Webb Haymaker, and Yoshi (with bandages over his head, hands, and legs, wearing a white tuxedo and black pants to imitate John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”) headed out to a Halloween party October 17, 1992.
Since he had injured his neck jumping into a swimming pool at his house, Yoshi’s neck was in a plaster cast. Neither of them had any makeup on their faces. They approached a home adorned with Halloween decorations which had a house number very similar to the house they were looking for.
They walked to a door in the carport on the side of the house. Then they heard someone bang the door. “Are we at a wrong house?” they wondered, moved back toward the road, and stood there for a while. Meanwhile, inside the house, the homeowners had seen them coming. Bonnie Peairs, told her husband Rodney, “Go get the gun.”
Webb and Yoshi heard the door open and someone appeared.”We are here for a party!” Yoshi explained and started to walk fast to the door through the carport. Seeing Rodney Peairs holding a gun in his hand at the door, Webb cried to Yoshi “No. Come back!”
“Freeze!” warned Peairs, as Yoshi repeated, “We are here for a party!” No sooner had he finished the words than Peairs pulled the trigger. A bullet hit Yoshi’s chest. Bleeding heavily, he died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.
Almost three weeks later, on November 4, 1992, a Louisiana grand jury indicted Peairs for manslaughter. At his arraignment on December 16, he pled not guilty. A trial began on May 17, 1993.
On May 23, the jurors reached a unanimous verdict of not guilty, ruling that Peairs acted in self-defense. In his concluding argument, Peairs’ attorney said, “We have a legal right to open the door holding a gun to anyone when the door bell rings. This is the law of this country.”
On July 13, 1993, Masaichi and Mieko Hattori, Yoshi’s parents, filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. and Mrs. Peairs. Charles Moore, the Hattoris’ attorney, brought up revelations of contradictions in the defendants’ criminal trial testimonies.
The judge denied Peairs’ claim that he felt he was in danger, deciding that his action was against Louisiana law requiring special precaution for use of firearms and that Yoshi was not at fault. The judgment stated that a reasonable person would have asked, “Why do we need a gun? What did you see?” and thus, self-defense immunity was not granted in the civil trial.
On September 15, 1992 the Hattoris won the civil case and were awarded $653,000 as compensation for damages. The civil judgment cleared Bonnie Peairs of responsibility for her role in telling Rodney, “Go get the gun” upon seeing Yoshi. A Japanese documentary film called “Shot Heard Around the World” covers the civil trial in detail.
The Hattoris established The Yoshi Foundation following Yoshi’s death, funded by donations and 10 million yen out of Yoshi’s life insurance and managed by AFS Japan. Each year since 1994 one student from the U.S. experiences Japanese society with the hope that they will get a deeper understanding of a culture where guns are not a necessity.
The student lives with a host family and attends high school in Japan. Every year, Yoshi’s parents meet with the student to tell them about Yoshi’s misfortune, with the hope that small efforts can eventually bring international peace.
A common thread in many of the cases where a person claimed a stand your ground defense after killing an innocent, unarmed person, is that there is usually no other defense for the killer to stand on. The killer of Renisha Mcbride will likely not claim stand your ground.
A pretty young African-American woman, 19 year-old Mcbride, a 2012 Southfield High School graduate, had wrecked her 2004 Ford Taurus in the early morning hours of November 2. She apparently walked into the suburban neighborhood of predominantly white Dearborn Heights, Michigan looking for help. It’s not clear why she could not use a cell phone to call for help.
Mcbride was shot in the head at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun after banging on a door at the home of Theodore Paul Wafer, 54, now charged with manslaughter, second-degree murder, and felony use of a firearm in her death.
However, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has already dismissed the notion of a stand your ground defense. “The evidence will show that self-defense was not warranted,” Worthy said.
“Under Michigan law, there is no duty to retreat in your own home; however, someone who claims self-defense must honestly and reasonably believe that he is in imminent danger of either losing his life or suffering great bodily harm, and that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent that harm”, said Worthy.
Many people are comparing this incident to the shooting of Jonathan Ferrell, 24, an African-American former college football player killed in North Carolina by police under similar circumstances in September after his car broke down.
Before anyone goes further in the discussion of SYG as it applies to the Renisha Mcbride case, or a crusade to use this as a prudent stand your ground case, it’s wise to acknowledge that this should not be construed as a stand your ground situation. There are many other cases with circumstances that clearly afford the claim. Caution should be used before any presumptions of the shooter’s intent.
While the McBride shooting simply exemplifies the danger of stand your ground laws, her killer has not claimed a stand your ground defense as immunity from prosecution for a justifiable homicide. And self-defense in your home – where you have the right to be – is automatically afforded universally under Castle Doctrine.
Wafer’s attorneys may possibly try to secure the stand your ground option, but it would be a foolish move. He did, in fact, use the indoctrinated “no duty to retreat”. Yet there is no indication he was ever faced with the threat of injury or death from Renisha Mcbride, and has not claimed the perceived fear nor premise necessary to secure a stand your ground defense.
Anyone thought it was just Florida? Florida’s “stand your ground” law has reportedly been invoked 200 times since the state passed the statute in 2005, but it’s most infamously associated with Trayvon Martin’s 2012 slaying as he walked to his father’s house in a gated community on a rainy February evening.
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.