Black Woman Infamously Denied Stand Your Ground Defense Gets New Trial
The Florida woman whose "Stand Your Ground" defense was rejected in a controversial 2012 trial that rose prominence in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal will get a new trial after an appeals court ruled that the jury instructions on self-defense "were erroneous."
Marissa Alexander had good reason to fear her husband Rico Gray.
The 36-year-old Jacksonville resident had been previously arrested for an attack that sent his wife to the hospital, and he seemed to take pride in beating up his partners, telling authorities, "I got five baby mamas and I put my hand on every last one of them except one."
When Gray picked a fight with Alexander inside her home on August 1st, 2010 — just nine days after she had given birth to Gray's child — she had every reason to believe he could hit her again.
And he did: According to Alexander's account, which was later confirmed by Gray, a text message conversation between Alexander and her ex-husband Lincoln sent Gray reeling.
"He assaulted me, shoving, strangling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing all while I begged for him to leave," Alexander is quoted as saying.
Fleeing the house, Alexander said she tried to leave in her truck, but the garage door was stuck.
Fearing "further assault," Alexander grabbed her gun and went back inside through the kitchen.
Upon seeing Alexander, Gray allegedly approached her, and once he spotted the weapon in her hand, yelled "bitch, I will kill you!"
As he charged toward her, Alexander says she "lifted my weapon up, turned away and discharged a single shot in the wall up in the ceiling."
Angela Corey, the prosecutor in the trials of both Alexander and Zimmerman, told the Washington Post that Alexander's account omits several crucial details.
Like, that Alexander's "warning shot" ricocheted into the ceiling after hitting the wall near the spot where Gray and his two sons were standing.
And Corey also challenges Alexander's claim that Gray was threatening her with further violence, telling the Post Gray and his sons were about to leave the house when Alexander fired the gun.
But the initial deposition Gray gave the state attorney's office overrides Corey's claims.
Gray told the prosecution that Alexander fired a shot in the air before he decided to leave.
"She knew the relationships I been in and I put my hand on her before," he said. "I honestly think she just didn’t want me to put my hands on her anymore, so she did what she feel like she have to do to make sure she wouldn’t get hurt, you know."
He also acknowledged that the gun was never pointed at him.
Despite this, a jury of Alexander's supposed peers took all of 12 minutes to reject her defense under the state's "Stand Your Ground" law and sentence her to 20 years in prison — the mandatory minimum in Florida for firing a gun while committing a felony.
Just over a year later, another jury would find George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin.
Though the "Stand Your Ground" defense was not explicitly used in Zimmerman's trial, parallels were still drawn between the two cases, with Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) referring to the outcome of Alexander's case as "institutional racism."
It's unclear what a new trial will mean for Alexander, as Judge James H. Daniel made it clear in his decision [pdf] that the court "reject[s] her contention that the trial court erred in declining to grant her immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law."
However, Judge Daniel did agree that the defendant "does not have the burden to prove the victim guilty of the aggression defended against beyond a reasonable doubt."
A retrial has been ordered, and Alexander may even be released on bail ahead of her new court date.
[photo via AP]