Fla. mom gets 20 years for firing warning shots!

by Heraldo Fuentes

The web is alive with stories of Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, Fla., who received a 20-years prison sentence for firing warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband. The judge rejected a defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, a law currently being used in the Zimmerman defense.

Since it is a buzz on the internet, I thought I'd report it and add to the buzz.

Marissa Alexander, an African-American woman from Jacksonville, had said that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law should apply to her because she was defending herself against her allegedly abusive husband when she fired warning shots inside her home in August 2010. She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order.

Circuit Court Judge James Daniel handed down the sentence after Marissa was found guilty of violating a Florida law which prescribes a minimum of 20 years for firing a gun in an altercation. The thinking was that such a law would prevent people bringing lethal weapons in an argument.

Under Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing requirements Alexander could have receive a lesser sentence, as she has never been in trouble with the law before. But Judge Daniel saw things differently. He said the law did not allow for extenuating or mitigating circumstances to reduce the sentence below the 20-year minimum.

Marissa Alexander is the Florida mother and abused wife that fired a warning shot in her home to keep her husband, Rico Gray, from killing her -- as he promised -- and was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years in prison.

The "Stand Your Ground" law, which states that the victim of a crime does not have to attempt to run for safety and can immediately retaliate in self-defense, seems to be a reasonable application in Marissa's case. She didn't introduce the gun in an argument to intimidate or attempt to kill anyone. She claims it was used in self-defense to make her husband stop attacking her. She claimed she was trying to protect her children also, believing they were also in danger.

She didn't pursue him. She did not kill him. She was simply protecting herself and she is still waiting to see the community outraged by the extreme punishment.

"I really was crying in there," Marissa's 11-year-old daughter said. "I didn't want to cry in court, but I just really feel hurt. I don't think this should have been happening."

Marissa Alexander was convicted of attempted murder after she rejected a plea deal for a three-year prison sentence. She was confident that she did not do anything wrong and that the "Stand Your Ground" law would protect her right to protect her children and herself from her abusive husband.

Alexander asked for a new trial, appealing to the judge to reconsider her case based on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. The judge denied her request.

Alexander's attorney said she was clearly defending herself and should not have to spend the next two decades behind bars. Most people familiar with the details of the case are inclined to agree.

One cannot but wonder that, if the case involved a white woman, it would have turned out quite differently. This case is one of a plethora where Justice seems to peak from under her blindfold to see the complexion of the accused. Rather than help an obviously troubled and abuse marriage, the State is content to scuttle the lives of a vulnerable family and apply the letter -- not the meaning -- of the law.

Alexander's case has drawn support from domestic abuse advocates -- and comparison to the case of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who has claimed a "Stand Your Ground" defense in his fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. We'll all have to wait and see how that verdict evolves.

I usually don't get involved in reporting cases of hate or racism. Sometimes a story just has to be told.

The web site change.org had started a petition to change this situation but received only 254 supporters. Most people are apparently little interested in the plight of a black woman or misguided justice.

Only in Florida. Only in America.

UPDATE: July 8, 2013

Marissa is still in prison and has lawyers working on her appeal. She has been in Jacksonville county jail since the beginning of the year in hopes of being allowed to be out on bond while the appeal is going through, but so far there's no progress on that.

A national effort to draw attention to the case has recently been getting organized. The national Free Marissa Now campaign can be reached at FreeMarissaNow.com and Facebook at Free Marissa Now. The major focuses are on building awareness of the case, obtaining endorsements of groups for the campaign, raising funds for her legal defense, and getting a postcard campaign going.

Will you please help?