Marissa Alexander, Florida Woman Sentenced to 20 Years for "Warning Shot," Granted New Trial
Florida's strange legal code means you can kill a kid armed only with a bag of Skittles, claim self defense, and get off scot-free, but if you fire what you claim is a warning shot during a dispute with your abusive husband you get 20 years in jail.
Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman sentenced to 20 years under such circumstances, has now been granted a new trial by an appeals court.
Alexander and her husband, Rico Gray, have three children, one of whom was a newborn and still in the hospital at the time of the 2010 incident. The two had not been living together for two months, but while Alexander was in Gray's home, the two got into an argument about the paternity of the newborn.
Gray has an extensive history of domestic-abuse charges and the previous year had sent Alexander to the hospital with a head injury after shoving her into a bathtub. On that morning, Gray tried to keep Alexander in the bathroom, but she eventually escaped. She could have left the house at that point but instead went to her car and retrieved her licensed and registered handgun and returned to the house.
While Gray was standing in a room with the couple's other two children, Alexander fired a shot that just missed Gray's head. Alexander claimed that Gray had threatened to kill her that morning and she had fired the shot as a warning.
Alexander tried to get out of trial by claiming protection under "Stand Your Ground," but the judge in the case ultimately ruled that it did not apply. The state had offered Alexander a plea deal that would have put her in jail for just three years, but Alexander did not take it.
Under Florida's "10-20-Life" mandatory minimum sentencing laws, anyone who commits any crime while firing a gun in any manor is automatically sentenced to 20-years if found guilty.
"The irony of the 10-20-Life law is the people who actually think they're innocent of the crime, they roll the dice and take their chances, and they get the really harsh prison sentences," Greg Newburn, Florida director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums previously told the Huffington Post. "Whereas the people who think they are actually guilty of the crime take the plea deal and get out [of prison] well before. So it certainly isn't working the way it is intended."
While the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed that "Stand Your Ground" does not apply in this case, they found that the judge did not properly instruct the jury on self-defense. Alexander will now get a new trial.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.