In Florida, an African-American woman from Jacksonville, facing decades in prison for firing what she says was a warning shot into a wall near her abusive husband has taken a plea deal.
Marissa Alexander’s case generated national outrage after she was sentenced to 20 years in prison, even though she didn’t kill anyone, while, in another Florida case, George Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting And killing a young black unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Alexander’s attorneys unsuccessfully tried to use Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in her defense, saying she feared for her life when she fired the shot. After an appeals court ordered a new trial over faulty jury instructions, Florida prosecutors sought a 60-year term, three times her original sentence.
Alexander’s legal team used the stand-your-ground law as part of her legal defense. The law, as The Associated Press puts it, “says individuals have no duty to retreat from a place where they have a right to be and may use any level of force, including lethal, if they reasonably believe they face an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death.”
According to Alexander, her estranged husband, Rico Gray, accused her of having an affair and questioned whether their 9-day-old baby was his. She says she locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door and shoved her to the floor. She says she tried to escape through the garage but the door wouldn’t open. She retrieved a gun from a car, went back inside and says she fired a ‘warning shot’ after Gray said he would kill her — an account backed by one of his sons. No one was injured.
On Monday, Alexander took a plea deal to serve three years, a sentence she has nearly completed. She is due to be released on January 27. Alexander has already served 1,030 days in jail and will serve 65 more days as part of the agreement.
The plea deal came soon after the judge in the case decided to allow evidence that Gray had abused women in the past. Alexander’s case shows the racial disparity in the application of stand your ground.
After her release, Alexander reportedly will be required to wear a monitoring device that will track her movements for two years. Had she been found guilty on all counts in a second trial that was set to start Dec. 1, she would have faced up to 60 years in prison.