Early this morning George Zimmerman was released from jail in Seminole County, Florida on a $150,000 bond by Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester.
Yet 2 hours north in Duvall County (Jacksonville), today Marissa Alexander faces sentencing for aggravated assault after firing a gun to ward off her abusive husband. A shooting in which no one was injured, much less murdered. Yet, a conviction for which Florida sentencing guidelines call for a minimum of 20 years in jail.
Much of the controversy over "Stand Your Ground" laws, such as Florida has, revolves around the duty to retreat, the legal principle that one should avoid conflict whenever possible. This is the reason that people that people are upset that George Zimmerman, after being told by the 911 dispatcher that he didn't need to follow Trayvon Martin, still managed to get into an armed, and deadly, confrontation with Martin.
On the other hand, an abused spouse often has no such recourse. Your home is your safe spot, the place where you are supposed to retreat to in times of danger. But where does a person go when the danger is at home, in their safe spot?
On August 1, 2010 Marissa Danielle Alexander, a mother of three, one an infant just 9 days old, faced just such a dilemma.
At the time 31 years old, Marissa had been married to her second husband, Rico Gray, 36, a self-employed truck driver with two sons from a previous relationship, for just 3 months. Gray had been twice arrested for domestic battery in previous relationships in 2006 and 2009. In the former case the charges were dropped, in the later he received probation. Alexander had an order of protection filed against Gray.
Alexander's first husband, Lincoln Alexander, posted this description of the incident for his ex-wife:
In an unprovoked jealous rage, my husband violently confronted me while using the restroom. He assaulted me, shoving, strangling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing all while I begged for him to leave. After a minute or two of trying to escape, I was able to make it to the garage where my truck was parked, but in my haste to leave I realized my keys were missing. I tried to open the garage but there was a mechanical failure. I was unable to leave, trapped in the dark with no way out. For protection against further assault I retrieved my weapon; which is registered and I have a concealed weapon permit. Trapped, no phone, I entered back into my home to either leave through another exit or obtain my cell phone.Gray describes the encounter this way:
He and my two stepsons were supposed to be exiting the house thru the front door, but he didn’t leave. Instead he came into the kitchen that leads to the garage and realized I was unable to leave. Instead of leaving thru the front door where his vehicle was parked outside of the garage, he came into the kitchen by himself. I was terrified from the first encounter and feared he came to do as he had threatened. The weapon was in my right hand down by my side and he yelled, “Bitch I will kill you!”, and charged toward me. In fear and desperate attempt, I lifted my weapon up, turned away and discharged a single shot in the wall up in the ceiling. As I stood my ground it prevented him from doing what he threatened and he ran out of the home. Outside of the home, he contacted the police and falsely reported that I shot at him and his sons. The police arrived and I was taken into custody.
I was devastated and would continue to be for months following the incident. I had to appear in court all the way up until trial as I plead not guilty and know that I acted in self-defense. I believe my actions saved my life or prevented further harm, but preserved that of my husband who was completely irrational, extremely violent, and unpredictable that day.
Marissa is not portraying herself as she is, I was begging for my life while my kids were holding on to my side, the gun was pointed at me.According to Marissa Alexander, Gray "admitted he was the aggressor, threatened my life and was so enraged he didn’t know what he would do."
I got my kids out of the house through the front door. We ran down the street. My son called the police on his cell phone and I called the police on my phone.
Marissa didn’t come out of the house until 30 minutes later after SWAT had to be called out. SWAT had to get in touch with one of Marissa’s family members and SWAT had to tell Marissa if she didn’t come out in five minutes they were coming in there to get her. It wasn’t like she came out when the police got there.
She’s just using the stand-your-ground because of the Trayvon incident. I feel sorry for her but at the same time I thought I was going to die that day in front of my kids.
Lincoln Alexander told WTEV-TV:
The Stand Your Ground Law…should have protected her…based on the information that is provided, it should have prevented her from being arrested to begin with in the first place.This case was subjected to a stand your ground motion hearing in 2011, but the motion was denied by Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt, who told Alexander that she "could have exited the house during the altercation," though as I noted above the Florida stand-your-ground law removes a person's "duty to retreat."
Prosecutors offered Alexander a plea deal, but she turned it down thinking a jury would not convict her based on a stand your ground defense. But instead on March 16 she was found guilty on three counts of aggravated assault, one each for Gray and his two sons.
State Attorney Angela Corey, the same Angela Corey who filed murder charges against George Zimmerman told The Florida Times-Union,that the jury heard the whole story and the public will, too. After the sentencing she will be willing to talk about a case she has been “very involved with from the beginning.”
We take issue with the State denying her right to claim self-defense under Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' law.Is there a racial component to this case? Well, one year after Marissa Alexander was arrested, 41-year old Carl Kroppman Jr. (white) actually shot the (black) passenger of another car during a road rage incident on the Buckman Bridge, in the middle of traffic, Jacksonville Police ruled the incident, "not the fault of the shooter."
She did all that she possibly could to protect herself from her husband at the time, including an injunction for protection against violence, which was active on the day of the incident.
1:43 PM PT: BREAKING: Marissa Alexander's sentencing hearing scheduled for today has been indefinitely delayed. There will be a hearing April 30th for a judge to rule on post-trial motions, but no new date has been set for her sentencing.