Double Standard? Black Woman In Florida Facing 20-Year Sentence For Standing Her Ground

April 18, 2012  |  

After seeing the effect public outcry and activism had in the Trayvon Martin case, a black Florida woman is pleading for support as she faces a 20-year sentence for firing  a shot in the air with a gun she had a permit for and was trained to use after her husband assaulted her—i.e., standing her ground.

JusticeforMarissa.blogspot.com is the site where Jacksonville resident Marissa Alexander’s story is being told via Lincoln B. Alexander, Jr., and according to the site, the following events which occurred in August 2010 led to Marissa’s current situation:

“My name is Marissa Alexander, I am a mother of three children, but at the present time, I am not able to be with them due to the following circumstances.  I am currently sitting in the Pretrial Detention Facility in Jacksonville FL, Duval County awaiting a sentence for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with no intent to harm.  Before my life changed drastically on that August afternoon, I was in the perilous position of leaving an abusive relationship with my husband who has history of violence and documented domestic abuse towards women.  Our history included one which required me to place an injunction for protection against violence and was active during the month of August 2010.

“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.

“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, “Itchbay 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.”

Beyond the account of that day’s event, several concerns about the why the stand your ground law was not applied in this instance were outlined, including:

  • In November 2010, Marissa’s husband, who was arrested for domestic violence twice—once in an altercation that sent Marissa to the hospital—admitted in a sworn statement that he was the aggressor and threatened her life.
  • Marissa’s injunction against her husband and admission that she was in fear of her life prior to the arrest was ignored.
  • After a hearing in July 2011, a judge denied Marissa’s motion, saying that she could have exited the house thru the master bedroom window, front door, and/or sliding glass back door, despite the fact that the law specifically states: No duty to retreat.
  • Under Florida’s 10-20-life sentencing guideline, Marissa’s felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to harm carries a twenty year mandatory sentence.

The idea that firing a warning shot in the air in self-defense without harming anyone has placed Marissa in this predicament has caused her family to ask people who hear her story to send letters of support to Judge James Daniel pleading for justice in her case. For more details you can also check out her website here.

What do you think about this case?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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