Marissa Alexander case
|Date||August 1, 2010|
|Location||Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.|
|Participants||Marissa Alexander (accused)|
Rico Gray (Alexander's husband)
|Charges||Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (three counts)|
In May 2012, 31-year-old Marissa Alexander was prosecuted for aggravated assault with a lethal weapon and received a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. Alexander said that she fired a warning shot after her husband attacked her and threatened to kill her on August 1, 2010, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Some time after her conviction, a new trial was ordered. Before the new trial could begin, Alexander was released on January 27, 2015, under a plea deal that capped her sentence to the three years she had already served.
Alexander was in the home of her estranged husband Rico Gray, when Alexander stated that Gray threatened to kill her via texts on Alexander's phone. Gray had previously abused Alexander, giving her reason to believe that her life was in danger.
According to Alexander, she tried to escape through the garage, but the garage door would not open. This account was confirmed by Gray in a sworn deposition, although investigators found no problem with the door. According to all accounts, Alexander then retrieved her gun from her vehicle and went to the kitchen. Alexander fired a "warning shot" towards Gray with his children nearby, which hit the wall near Gray at the height of his head, then deflected into the ceiling. The single shot did not injure anyone. According to one source, Alexander had fired the warning shot because of Florida's stand-your-ground law, a law that allows self-defense, such as lethal force, in life-threatening situations, but a warning shot was not legal at that time.[clarification needed]
Alexander, who had a history of suffering domestic violence from Gray, and had been previously accused of domestic violence herself, and who had recently been released from jail (after having assaulted the father of her child), returned to Gray's house, despite him having a restraining order forbidding her presence at the house, sought self-defense immunity prior to trial but was unsuccessful. State Attorney Angela Corey met with the defendant and offered her a three-year plea deal. Asserting that she acted in self-defense within the bounds of the law, Alexander rejected the offer and took her case to trial. A jury convicted her in twelve minutes, and because of the Florida 10-20-Life mandatory minimum statute, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Alexander was also requested to stay away from Gray as part of a court order.
On September 26, 2013, an appellate court ordered a new trial, finding that the jury instructions in Alexander's trial impermissibly shifted the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense. Alexander was released on bail on November 27, 2013 and required to stay under house arrest. Corey announced that she intended to re-prosecute Alexander, this time aiming for three consecutive 20 year sentences, amounting to a mandatory 60-year sentence if Alexander is found guilty in a second trial.
Marissa Alexander retained legal and investigative assistance during her second trial that she did not prior to her first trial, including a partner at the law firm of Holland & Knight, private investigator Patrick McKenna, and digital collections and forensics through Capsicum Group.
On January 27, 2015, Alexander was released from a Jacksonville jail under a plea deal that capped her sentence to the three years she had already served. She pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault for firing a shot in the direction of her husband. She also agreed to serve two years of house arrest, wearing an ankle monitor. She will be allowed to work, attend classes and take her children to school and medical appointments. Her case helped to inspire a new state law permitting warning shots in some circumstances.
Criticism of prosecutor Angela Corey
Corey was criticized for her handling of the case by Democratic Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who argued that Corey overcharged Alexander and the result of Alexander's case was a consequence of institutional racism. Mariame Kaba, Rev. Jesse Jackson, anti-domestic violence advocates, civil rights groups, and others also supported the call for Alexander's release from prison. Several groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the national advocacy group Color of Change petitioned to ask for Corey's removal from this case. NOW called for Corey to resign over the case, saying Corey was "misusing her office and endangering domestic violence survivors." Color of Change stated that they would attempt to collect 100,000 signatures to remove Corey from the case.
Corey has defended herself by saying that she believes Alexander fired the weapon out of anger and not fear, and that she endangered the lives of Gray's two children in the process. Corey said, "She discharged a gun to kill them."
In March 2017, Alexander expressed support for reducing minimum sentencing laws and speaking on behalf of women who suffered domestic abuse. She also spoke in favor of strengthening the Stand Your Ground law with the intent of making it more fair and that it can be made more balanced.
- MCJ Staff. "Marissa Alexander Faces Triple Sentence In Retrial Of 'Warning Shot' Case".
- Stacy, Mitchy. "Marissa Alexander Gets 20 Years for Firing Warning Shot".
- Alexander, Marissa. "In The State Of Florida - Marissa Faces 20 Years In Prison". Stand Your Ground Marissa Alexander. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Powers, Kirsten. "Prosecuted for Standing Her Ground". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Salzillo, Leslie. "5 More Women Accuse Marissa Alexander's Abusive Husband Of Brutal Abuse". The Daily Kos. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
- "Angela Corey lashes out at critics of Marissa Alexander prosecution". theGrio. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- Kateel, Subhash. "4 Lies, Distortions and Inaccuracies made in the Marissa Alexander case". Let's Talk About It. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "Angela Corey lashes out at critics of Marissa Alexander prosecution". Thegrio.com. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- HLN Staff. "Marissa Alexander: The REAL reason she's behind bars". HLNtv.com. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- "Marissa Alexander Gets 20 Years For Firing Warning Shot". 2012-05-11. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- Opinion in Marissa Alexander v. State of Florida
- Irin Carmon. "Marissa Alexander will get a new trial | MSNBC". Tv.msnbc.com. Retrieved 2014-01-16.
- Morgan Whitaker (2013-07-23). "Marissa Alexander released from jail for Thanksgiving". MSNBC. Retrieved 2014-01-16.
- "Florida woman given 20 years for firing warning shot won't return to jail ahead of new trial". Usnews.nbcnews.com. Retrieved 2014-01-16.
- Hannan, Larry. "Marissa Alexander's sentence could triple in 'warning-shot' case". The Florida Times Union. Archived from the original on 2014-10-18. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Susan Cooper Eastman (27 January 2015). "Florida woman in 'warning shot' case released from jail". Reuters. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- "20-year sentence for firing shot sparks outrage". News4Jax.
- Treen, Dana. "Jesse Jackson visits Marissa Alexander, discusses case with Angela Corey". jacksonville.com.
- Nelson, Steven. "Marissa Alexander supporters urge governor to suspend Angela Corey". Retrieved 8 May 2014.
- NOW calls for Angela Corey to resign over Marissa Alexander case, Florida Times-Union, Mar 18, 2014, archived from the original on 2014-08-08, retrieved 2014-03-21
- Dahl, Julia. "Fla. woman Marissa Alexander gets 20 years for "warning shot": Did she stand her ground?". Retrieved 8 May 2014.
- Schuppe, Jon (March 23, 2017). "Woman Who Lost Stand Your Ground Case Wants Law Strengthened". NBC News. NBCUniversal. Retrieved 4 January 2019.