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Social Justice

April 17, 2012
 

Why Was Marissa Alexander Not Allowed to “Stand Her Ground?”

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Written by: Kelly Virella
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Marissa Alexander has three children, including an infant who was born 9 days before her mother was attacked.

I

n August 2010, Marissa Alexander found herself in what she believed was a life or death situation. While she was using the bathroom in her Jacksonville, Florida home, her husband allegedly attacked her. He assaulted her, shoving, strangling and holding her against her will, preventing her from fleeing, while she begged him for mercy.  After a minute or two of trying to escape, she got free and went to the garage where her truck was parked, but realized that she didn’t have her keys. After her attempts to open the garage door failed, she grabbed her weapon, and went back inside her home,  hoping to either leave through another exit or get her cell phone. But when she got to the kitchen, her husband approached and threatened her.  Yelling “Bitch, I will kill you!” he charged toward her. Afraid and desperate, she lifted the weapon that was in her right hand, turned away and discharged a single shot up in the air, in the ceiling.

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Alexander may have saved her life that day and no one was hurt when she fired the warning shot. But the incident could soon cost her up to 25 years in prison. After she fired her gun, her husband ran out of the home, contacted the police and reported that she shot at him and his sons.  Police arrested her; prosecutors tried her — and though she claimed self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law — a jury convicted her of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with no intent to harm. She has been in jail for a year and is now waiting for a judge to issue her sentence. The prosecutor in her case? None other than special prosecutor Angela Corey, who is leading the prosecution of George Zimmerman, who claims he shot African-American teen Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

I have not vetted Alexander’s story and — while  a local alternative weekly newspaper, the Folio Weekly, maybe investigating her story — it appears that no local media organizations have vetted it either. So there is no way to ascertain her husband’s name or his side of the story. But if there’s any merit to the account of events circulating around the Internet — through a letter she wrote with her previous husband and friend, Lincoln Alexander, and through an interview that her relatives gave on The Nancy Lockhart Show – someone has some explaining to do.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law allows victims to pull the trigger on aggressors when they “reasonably believe” doing so is necessary to stop the other person from hurting them. It obviates their duty to retreat. Yet the judge who heard Alexander’s case at an evidentiary hearing said she “could have exited the house thru the master bedroom window, front door, and/or sliding glass back door,” according to Alexander’s letter. And a jury somehow agreed that Alexander’s discharge of her firearm was not justifiable.

On the Nancy Lockhart Show, Lincoln Alexander said that the family plans to appeal his ex-wife’s case. They are also planning a press conference for 3 pm Wednesday.

As soon as I learn more details about the husband’s side of the story, I’ll report it.

 



About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.



 
 

 
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