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Why stand your ground failed to work for Marissa Alexander, young black female.

Marissa Alexander
Marissa Alexander

While George Zimmerman may have gotten off with a murder rap on the grounds of Florida’s debatable ‘stand your ground law,’ one individual who also sought to use it in her defense after firing a warning shot, Marissa Alexander, such efforts had little luck. Instead the Florida woman ended getting a 20 year sentence despite no one in the end being hurt. Which raises the question, how can one individual be acquitted of murder and receive no jail time whilst another individual end up with 20 years for applying the same line of defense, not kill anyone and still end up receiving 20 years? Should we dare wonder if it has anything to do with race?

At the time, Marissa Alexander, an African-American Florida woman, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012 for shooting what she described as warning shots into a wall during a confrontation with her husband. Alexander’s lawyers claimed self-defense and went on to tell that her husband had a history of abuse in their relationship. They invoked Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which gives people the right to use lethal force if they feel their life is threatened. The jury ultimately sided with prosecutors in deciding Alexander’s actions were not in self-defense.

Her sentencing notes msnbc fell under the guidelines of what’s known in Florida as the “10-20-Life” law, which sets certain mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with a firearm. The law enacted in 1999 requires that any crime committed with a gun to earn the perpetrator a minimum ten year sentence, as the Florida Department of Corrections explains. If the firearm is discharged, the convicted will receive a 20-year minimum sentence, and if shots fired from the gun injure or kill anyone, the minimum sentence is 25-years to life.

Angela Corey, who oversaw the prosecution of Zimmerman, went on to note the following:

When she [Alexander] discharges a firearm in the direction of human beings, the legislature says it’s dangerous. And one of the reasons is because the bullet went through the wall where one of the children was standing. It happened to deflect up into the ceiling, but if it had deflected down it could have hit one of the children.”

Interestingly gawker went on to also note the following: This morning, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who spent his weekend restricting the rights of womentold CNN that the U.S. Justice System is “color blind.” Were that to be actually true, such variations in the treatment of people of color from their white (or white-looking) neighbors wouldn’t be so blatantly apparent. The idea that these are simply the findings of an anonymous jury from our country’s most whacked-out state, or that these are two cases that are kind of similar, but not indicative of our country’s deeply ingrained racism, is wrong. Because this happens everywhere in the country.

Critics have gone on to say Marissa Alexander’s case underscores the unfair sentences that can result when laws strip judges of discretion. About two-thirds of the states have mandatory-minimum sentencing laws, mostly for drug crimes, according to a website for the Families Against Mandatory Minimums advocacy group.

Told  Greg Newburn, Florida director for the group: “We’re not saying she’s not guilty of a crime, we’re not saying that she doesn’t deserve some sort of sanction by the court.”

Rather, he said, the judge should have the authority to decide an appropriate sanction after hearing all the unique circumstances of the case.

U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown, D-Jacksonville, has been an advocate for Alexander. Brown was present at the sentencing, where she and Corey had a brief, terse exchange afterward as sign-toting supporters rallied outside the courthouse.

“The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today,” Brown went on to say afterwards. “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. … The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently.”

Yet perhaps what went against Alexander, was her choice to go back in the house to face her husband, an act which was deemed by the presiding judge not to be consistent with someone who was in “genuine fear of his or her life.”

In the end Alexander was convicted of attempted murder after she rejected a plea deal for a three-year prison sentence. She said she did not believe she did anything wrong, unfortunately for Alexander Florida’s legal system did not see it that way, something that ought to concern us given what some claim may be an inconsistent applications of the ‘Stand your ground law,’ which has some wondering if it’s just a get out of jail card for a certain sector of society?



  1. She claimed stand your ground immunity because she was trapped by, according to the Court documents, a “mechanical failure” of the garage door. She admitted that he door worked earlier that day when she said that she parked her truck in the garage. When the police investigated the incident, they found that the door worked. The judge did not believe, as no one should, that the door coincidentally broke sometime between that morning and the time of the incident and then magically repaired itself afterwards. Lying in Court will get you convicted every time.

  2. I’m sorry but people need to stop comparing these situations. In this situation, based upon the defendants own testimony, she walked to her car got her gun, walked back into the house (and at no point did the husband follow her), pointed the gun at the man and the kids. The man put his hands up and she fired into the ceiling.

    Her own testimony shows that her actions are covered neither by Florida’s (ridiculous) stand your ground statute, nor by the standards of self defense. I agree that the mandatory minimum of 20 years is absurd, but its pretty hard to argue self defense, given her own version of events. To compare this and the Trayvon killing is just silly.

  3. “The husband of Marissa Alexander said Wednesday it was her violent nature, not his, that ultimately landed her 20 years in prison…

    He said it was Alexander, 31, who first began punching him after he confronted her about some text messages she had sent to her ex-husband…

    Gray said he put his hands up in defense “buying time” for his two sons to gather their belongings so he could take them and leave. But when he made the remark that their newborn baby must be fathered by her ex-husband, he said she immediately stopped.
    “She said, ‘I got something for your — —,’ and walked away,” Gray said. “I knew exactly what she was going to do.”

    “When she came back inside, the first thing I saw was her putting one [a bullet] in the chamber,” he said…

    Gray said by the time his kids had come to his side to leave, she had the gun pointed at him…

    “As soon as I took my eyes off Marissa, that’s when I heard the gunshot,” Gray said….

    He said he never looked back, grabbing the children and running out of the house and down the street…

    Alexander was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. A judge denied her immunity in a Stand Your Ground hearing in 2011. In March a jury took just 12 minutes to find her guilty.”


    The jury only took 12 minutes to convict. Is that surprising?

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