All Articles Tagged "Marissa Alexander"

Marissa Alexander Opens Up About Her Abusive Marriage & Life Before Her Arrest

March 4th, 2015 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Less than two months after her prison release, Marissa Alexander is telling her truth. In an in-depth chat with Essence, Alexander opened up about her abusive relationship and the warning shots that would eventually land her in prison. Check out some highlights from her discussion below.

On life before the arrest:

“Before all this happened I was working as a client services manager at a payroll company, coming up on my tenth year. I really enjoyed what I did: It was challenging, intense and a good fit for me. I had twins from my first marriage and a great coparenting relationship with my ex. I met Rico Gray, the man who would eventually become my second husband, on a blind date in 2009.”

On dating her abuser:

“Rico and I had a lot of chemistry. When our relationship was good, it was excellent. When it was bad, it was really bad. In the beginning, there was behavior I used to interpret as affection, like, He wants to know where I’m going and be with me all the time because he loves me. Suddenly, he turned into the kind of person who would clock me when I would just be going to the grocery store. Later that year, Rico beat me so badly I ended up getting a restraining order against him. But then we started seeing each other again. [Editor’s Note: A criminal charge stemming from this incident was subsequently dropped after Alexander decided not to proceed with the case.]

It’s embarrassing. I’m strong and determined and I had never experienced a relationship like this. So every time something bad happened, I would rationalize it and give Rico the benefit of the doubt. Or we would break up and he’d come back looking like a puppy dog, all lovey-dovey.”

On eventually marrying him:

“In January 2010, I found out I was pregnant. Rico was on his best behavior, and we decided to get married, work on our relationship, and make things right so we could be a family. But our relationship was still very stressful.”

On her escape plan:

“When I was five months pregnant, I went into preterm labor. After I got out of the hospital, I went to live with my mother. My plan was to move my things out of the house I had been sharing with Rico. But I needed to be careful. I was leaving, but I couldn’t tell him that I was. So I gradually took my things out, a little bit here and there, and I played nice.

When I was eight months pregnant, my water broke. Our daughter Rihanna was born weighing only 4 pounds, 12 ounces and was admitted to the NICU. I spent every waking minute at the hospital or pumping milk. Sometimes I would feed her, then sleep in my truck waiting for the next feeding. I was exhausted.”

On the incident that led to her arrest:

“A week after Rihanna was born, it was time for her first bath. Rico was supposed to meet me at the hospital, but he couldn’t make it. So I gave her a bath and took some pictures on my phone. I texted the photos to my ex-husband, who was in Orlando at Disney World with our twins. I wanted him to show the kids their new sister.
After that, I went to my old house to get more of my things. My sister was going to meet me there. I was surprised when Rico showed up with his two sons. But I thought, I’ll just be cordial. I showed him the pictures of Rihanna on my phone. I remember saying, ‘Look, she’s smiling.’ Then, after I left to go to the bathroom, he started going through my text messages. He saw that I had sent my ex-husband pictures of the baby and he lost his mind. I had never seen him that angry.

He started cursing at me through the bathroom door. Eventually, I was able to run to the garage and get into my truck to leave, but the garage door wasn’t working, so I grabbed my gun and went back in the house. I was raised with guns. My daddy is a military man. He took all his girls to the range and taught us self-defense.

At first I thought Rico had left. When I saw him, it was like we startled each other. He said, ‘Bitch, I’ll kill you.’ So I fired a warning shot into the wall above him. His children were not beside him; I assumed he had sent them out of the house and had come back to deal with me.”

On the arrest:

“After he left, all I wanted was to do was gather my things and get out of the house. I called my father and my brother to tell them what had happened. The whole time I was talking, I saw another call coming through, but I didn’t pick up because I didn’t recognize the number. Then my sister called. She was outside of the house. She said, ‘Rissa do not come outside. There are police out here. That’s a police officer trying to call on your phone.’ I couldn’t believe it. I was so scared. I got on the phone with the officer and said, “I’m coming outside. Please do not shoot me.”

Check our Marissa’s full story here.

Marissa Alexander Talks Parenting From Jail And Reuniting With Her Children

February 4th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Marissa Alexander Talks Parenting From Jail

Source: MSNBC

Last week, we were ecstatic to report the new that Marissa Alexander was finally being released from prison. Though we could certainly argue that she didn’t need to serve any more time at all, house arrest, (with the ability to go work, job interviews, church medical appointments and visit her children’s schools), is a vast improvement.

And on a recent appearance on the Melissa Harris Perry show, via satellite, Marissa spoke about parenting from jail, how she’s doing now that she’s home with her children and what people can do to ensure that people like her, first time offenders who didn’t injure or kill anyone, don’t end up serving unwarranted time in jail, away from their children and wasting taxpayer money.

Note: Marissa didn’t say those things, that’s my own editorializing.

Anyway, check out the highlights from Marissa Alexander’s interview and then watch the entire segment in the video below.

You have to spend the extra time and effort to really connect with the kids. For one thing, my kids were in a transition of going to teenage years. so it was a little bit difficult. You know, that’s the time when they’re into their electronics and your parents aren’t as cool. 

When I left we were all in the bed together, sleeping together and when I came back everybody was on their cell phones and on laptops. But one of the things that I did, I continued to write them. I did call them. I didn’t push them to come and visit if they had things that they wanted to do. I wanted to make sure that they had some normalcy. 

But when I got back home, I realized just how much they had missed me. My teenage daughter had all of my clothes that she was wearing while I was gone, just my sleeping clothes because she wanted some type of closeness to me. 

So those are the things that I did. I made sure that I wrote, I called and allowed them to have a life and not be tied down because I was.

Watch the rest of the video where Marissa speaks about what regular community members can do to help others like herself and others who may have find themselves dealing with the legal system.

Finally! Marissa Alexander Released From Jail

January 28th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: AP Images

Source: AP Images

After four years worth of legal battles and a case that brought national attention to Florida’s problematic Stand Your Ground laws, Marissa Alexander was released from jail on Tuesday afternoon.

She’ll be able to serve the rest of her sentence on house arrest.

Those present in the courtroom broke out into applause when Judge James Daniel announced that he was rejecting the prosecutor’s request for an additional two-year jail sentence and was releasing Alexander to house arrest, or community control.

When issuing his ruling he stated that his decision was “not based on any public opinion of any larger issue of public interest or social concern, but on the specific facts of the case.”

You may remember that at one point, Alexander faced up to 60 years behind bars for firing a warning shot near her abusive, estranged husband Rico Gray on August 1, 2010. Though Gray had abused Alexander on several occasions and threatened to kill her on that particular day, she was unable to convince the jury that she feared for her life.

Though no one was injured in the incident, during her first trial she was sentenced to 20 years in about 12 minutes by a jury. Later, when prosector Angela Corey, the same woman who was the prosecutor in George Zimmerman’s trial, became involved, she sought to sentence Alexander to 60 years.

In November, Alexander pled guilty to three counts of aggravated assault with a weapon in order to get credit for the time she’d already served since her case was first brought to trial. She was sentenced to three years and was ordered to serve 65 days in jail and then two additional years on house arrest.

For the next two years, Alexander must wear a GPS ankle monitor and will only be allowed to leave her home to go to work, job interviews, church, family medical and dental appointments and to visit her children’s schools. Any other locations will require a judge’s permission.

You may remember that Alexander was ordered to pay for her own monitoring device. And with cost being $105 per week, that’s nearly $11,000 for her two year sentence.

Supporters raised the money to help eliminate these fees and a group of pastors offered Alexander a job at one of their ministries if she wants it.

As she left the courthouse, Alexander delivered a statement to her supporters and the media. Here’s what she had to say.

Four and a half years have passed since the events of August 1, 2010, but today, after the sentencing posed by Judge Daniel, my family and I will be able to move forward with our lives. Although the journey has been long and there have been many difficult moments, I could not have arrived here and where I am today without the thoughts–the many thoughts and many prayers–of so many people who have voiced their support and encouragement. Words could never express my gratitude for those who have stood by me, including my children and family. I’m also grateful that Judge Daniel approached this case with such care and diligence. 

I look forward to the full time challenge of getting my two teenagers through high school and into college, as well as preparing my four-year-old daughter for nursery school. My goal is to continue my education, beyond my master’s degree and to continue my professional career. In moving forward, I will continue to learn lessons from the events of the past but I will not live in the past. At the age of 34, life is too short and there is too much that I have to accomplish in the years ahead. It is my hope and prayer that everyone associated with this case will also be able to move forward with their lives.

You can watch Ms. Alexander address her supporters and the media in the video below.

Marissa Alexander Accepts Plea Deal, Pleads Guilty To Aggravated Assault And Will Finally Be Released In January

November 24th, 2014 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Marissa Alexander

After fighting hard and serving more than 1,000 days in jail, Marissa Alexander will finally be free to go home and continue on with her life in January. And while it’s still not fair when you consider that Alexander should never have been thrown in jail in the first place, it’s much better than the possible 60 years she could have received if her trial was retried.

Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in 2012 for firing what she said was a ‘warning shot’ at then-husband Rico Gray after he abused her. The 20 years was a mandatory minimum as part of Florida’s 10-20-Life laws for crimes that involve firearms. She tried to use the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law as part of her defense, but it didn’t work for her case.

According to The Grio, as part of the plea deal, Alexander plead guilty to the three aggravated assault charges against her. She was also given three years in prison as part of that deal, but because she has already served 1,030 days in jail, she will only have to do 65 days–hence her release on January 27.

According to First Coast News, Alexander will have to be under community control or house arrest following her release, but it wasn’t specified for how long. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s reported that one of the aggravated assault charges is still an ‘open plea,’ so at a hearing on January 27, she could be sentenced and made to return to jail for five years. But for now, she knows that she will be released and free by early next year.


10 Politicians Who Support ‘Stand Your Ground’

May 13th, 2014 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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A protest against the George Zimmerman verdict in New York. Credit: Alberto Reyes/

A protest against the George Zimmerman verdict in New York. Credit: Alberto Reyes/

The Stand Your Ground law has been on the books for nearly a decade — since 2005! It wouldn’t be until eight years later, on one fateful February night, that the self-defense statute would cause a wave of rallies, protests, and demonstrations across the country. You already know, I’m sure, to which tragic episode is being referred to here. We needn’t repeat it.

Despite pleas from Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, Florida remains rigid on their controversial Stand Your Ground law. In fact, the grieving sobs of mothers who had sons or daughters victimized by the Castle Doctrine have fallen on the deaf ears of the politicians who support the statute. Here are a few of America’s lawmakers who continue to support Stand Your Ground laws and have even made moves to strengthen it.

The latest documentary from Moguldom Studios, Gunland, about the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago, is available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play and VHX now! Learn more here and purchase here. Buy it now!

Petition Delivered To Fire Prosecutor In Marissa Alexander Case

April 18th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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marissa alexander featMarissa Alexander’s saga seems unending. But a group of women and various civil rights groups are hoping to help expedite the case. They are calling on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to fire the prosecutor in case, Angela Corey. She wants to triple Alexander’s initial 20-year sentence when the case is retried in July and if Alexander is convicted.

You may recall, “Alexander was initially sentenced to 20 years — three separate 20-year sentences that Alexander was ordered to serve concurrently – for firing what the defense argues was a warning shot in the direction of Rico Gray, her estranged husband, during an alleged domestic violence incident,” reports Salon.  During the incident no one was injured and only one shot was fired into a wall. Gray, who admitted in court he had threatened Alexander’s life, had a history of violent abuse against Alexander, 31.

Angela Corey via Twitter

Angela Corey via Twitter

Alexander’s conviction was tossed out by the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. An appellate court ordered a new trial after it found that the jury instructions impermissibly shifted the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense. Alexander was released on bail on November 27, 2013 and placed under house arrest.

Alexander tried unsuccessfully to use the Stand Your Ground defense.

Now advocates including UltraViolet, Color of Change, and Black Youth Project 100 have joined forces to deliver 100,000 signatures gathered in a petition to Gov. Scott demanding that prosecutor Angela Corey be fired.

They claim the prosecutor’s blatant abuse of power has led to the possibility that a  domestic violence survivor will be sentenced to decades behind bars . And that Corey has had a history of overzealous prosecution before targeting Alexander.

“Marissa Alexander’s case has struck a nerve because of the way it demonstrates the racial bias that exists in our justice system, resulting in disproportionate prosecution and harsher sentences handed to women of color. This case also demonstrates how the justice system has failed women– 75 percent of female prisoners are domestic violence survivors and 82 percent are survivors of child abuse. Worse, 1 in 10 face further sexual abuse while in prison,” states the petition.

Will Florida’s New “Warning Shot Law” Prevent More Marissa Alexander Cases?

April 16th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Bob Mack/AP Images

Bob Mack/AP Images

Any person, with common sense…who isn’t racist can understand that there’s no rationale reason why Marissa Alexander was arrested and sentenced to twenty years in prison for firing a warning shot at her husband Rico Gray.

And according to Florida law, all of this was legal. It’s legal but it’s not just. And in an effort to address that, the state Senate passed a bill earlier this month that would grant immunity to people with clean criminal records who fire a warning shot or threaten to use deadly force in self defense. The law will also seal court records for those who are initially charged if those charges are later dropped.

Had this law been in effect during Marissa Alexander’s trial, she would have never had to serve jail time, though it’s unclear whether she was the impetus for the law.

Instead, the measure is being supported by the NRA and other gun groups. Since it has already been passed by the House as well, next it will go to Florida governor Rick Scott, who supports the 2nd Amendment and Florida’s self defense laws.

Florida senator Greg Evers says, “This is about self defense. It’s one more step forward for people to protect themselves.”

There were naysers however. Senator Arthenia Joyner, a democrat from Tampa, said, “A Pandora’s box is being opened again,” referencing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. I have a great apprehension about what’s inside.”

Other democrats were satisfied with it, believing it would warrant a more fair application of “Stand Your Ground” and include cases like Alexander’s.

Under the new law as well people who are found innocent in these “warning shot”/ self defense cases will have their records sealed, making them unavailable to the public.

You can get more information about the new law here.

What do you think, is it a good idea? Do you think it will prevent more cases like Marissa’s or do you believe it will create more problems than it solves?

For more information on this potential law, click here. 

Jacksonville Pastors Ask Angela Corey To Offer Original 3-Year Plea Deal To Marissa Alexander, Urge Alexander To Take It

March 27th, 2014 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Marissa Alexander rejected a plead deal for in her original case of aggravated assault for firing a warning shot at her estranged husband in 2010, subsequently, she was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Reportedly, because of that rejection, when the case goes to retrial starting July 28, if convicted, Alexander could face a possible 60 years in prison. According to a statement put out by State Attorney Angela Corey, known for her involvement in both the George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn trials, 60 is what the law says the conviction should be, not something she or her team are pushing for: “Absent a plea agreement, if convicted as charged, the law of the State of Florida fixes the sentence.” Well, pastors in Jacksonville have written a letter and are calling for Corey to offer Alexander the same plea deal that was put on the table when Alexander was convicted the first time for the aggravated assault charges–three years. Because of time already served, Alexander could go free in just months, not years, if she was given that same three-year plea deal for this retrial. She was in jail from February 2011 until last November, when her sentence was overturned. Rev. Mark Griffin of Wayman Ministries had this to say to The Florida Times-Union:

“Given that she’s been granted a chance at a retrial, she should have the chance at a redo.

A third racially polarizing trial would not be good for blacks or whites in this community,” he said. “We have been in the national and international spotlight for all the wrong reasons.”

Rev. Marvin McQueen of First Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville Beach also said that violence in the community is growing rapidly, including black-on-black crime that needs to be focused on, but this can’t happen with Alexander’s case taking away all the attention.

“This is a chance to begin the healing and benefit the community.”

Rev. Griffin claims that he and the other pastors aren’t trying to take sides, they just want to move forward to put the focus on improving the community.

While a few months is better than possibly looking at 60 years, who wants to plead guilty to something that they feel they didn’t do? If Alexander truly was defending herself from her abusive husband, AND no one was hurt, she probably won’t want to accept a plea deal for this retrial. But who knows? For the sake of her children, if put back on the table, she might.

But then again, this hasn’t been offered (yet), it’s just what folks in the community (the pastors) are calling for. According to the Times-Union, plea deal offers aren’t extended to individuals publicly, so we won’t know what’s really going to happen until she rejects or accepts an offer that comes her way when the trial begins again this summer.

What do you make of all this?

Shanesha Taylor And The Peculiar Prosecution Of Black Women In This Country

March 24th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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The mere fact that there is not a single petition or Twitter hashtag aimed at freeing Shanesha Taylor tells me how little regard we place on how racism affects black women.

If the name doesn’t sound familiar, her story just might ring a bell. From the CBS affiliate in Scottsdale Arizona, this is Taylor’s story:

It’s unclear if an Arizona mom got the job she was interviewing for, but after a witness found her children, ages 2 years and 6 months in a hot car outside, she now faces child abuse charges.

Scottsdale police said a witness heard a crying child inside a Dodge Durango parked in an office complex parking lot at 9700 N. 91st St. in Scottsdale about 12:30 p.m. Thursday. The woman reported to police the two young children were inside the vehicle parked directly in the sun, with the engine off, the doors closed and each of the four windows were just slightly open.

The mother, Shanesha Taylor, 35, returned to the vehicle about 45 minutes later and told the officer she had just finished a job interview and did not have anyone to watch her children.

“She was upset. This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job. Obviously not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation,” said Scottsdale Police Sergeant Mark Clark. 

She was arrested and booked into jail for child abuse.

Her children are now in CPS custody.”

Yes, it is extremely sad – and desperately dangerous – for a mother to leave her two small children alone in a vehicle. It’s even more sad and just as dangerous that we lock up a woman, whose sole crime is being homeless with children.

And Shanesha Taylor is not alone. I read stories daily of black women being mistreated by law enforcement and jailed for peculiar reasons. From the trivial, including the unbelievably silly stories of black women being arrested and jailed for wearing thongs on the beach, to the more heartbreakingly sad story of the black mother who was arrested and even incarcerated for sending her child to the wrong school district, and other odd reasons in between. In very few of those occasions do these stories ever occupy the national black conscious beyond casual expressions of sympathy (i.e. “that’s so sad…”). In many instances, these peculiarly-arrested black women are likely to be vilified and implicated in their own miscarriage of justice by the community-at-large.

Honestly, I feel that if not for the Marissa Alexander case being in such close proximity to the Trayvon Martin case – both in locale and in timing – would we really care about her story at all? Honestly?

Missing from most conversations around incarcerations are the statistics, which show how black women are the fastest growing prison population in the country and how the lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for black women is 1 in 19; compare that with 1 in 118 for white women. Also missing is how young black girls are “disproportionately affected by punitive, zero-tolerance policies,” which contribute to the much discussed (but never in terms of female children) school-to-prison pipeline. In this report entitled “Race, Gender and the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Expanding Our Discussion to Include Black Girls,” Monique W. Morris cites research, which found that teachers perceived black girls as being ‘loud, defiant, and precocious’ and that black girls were more likely to be reprimanded for being “unladylike” (including behavior described as loud, defiant and precocious) than their white or Latina peers.

Likewise, there is little talk about our current welfare policies and practices, particularly how the Department of Human Services and the justice system often work together to strip mostly black and poor women of their autonomies and rights as mothers – and it happens all in the name of protecting the welfare of children. According to this Frontline report, black children in the child welfare system are placed in foster care at twice the rate for white children. In this UCLA Law Review article entitled “Prison, Foster Care, and the Systemic Punishment of Black Mothers” Dorothy E. Roberts poignantly points outs this:

As neoliberal policies strip poor African American neighborhoods of needed services, poor and low-income black mothers tend to receive child welfare support only when they have been charged with child maltreatment. An African American woman I interviewed in a black Chicago neighborhood poignantly captured this fundamental problem with U.S. child welfare philosophy:

[T]he advertisement [for the child abuse hotline], it just says abuse. If you being abused, this is the number you call, this is the only way you gonna get help. It doesn’t say if I’m in need of counseling, or if . . . my children don’t have shoes, if I just can’t provide groceries even though I may have seven kids, but I only get a hundred something dollars food stamps. And my work check only goes to bills. I can’t feed eight of us all off a hundred something dollar food stamps . . . I don’t want to lose my children, so I’m not going to call [Department of Children and Family Services] for help because I only see them take away children.”

When I read about the Shanesha Taylor case, I can’t help but to think how she, as a homeless mother trying to land employment, felt in that moment about relying on the system for help? And with all the talk from Washington about cuts to welfare, was the system even an available option? I also wonder how prosecuting her actually serves in the best interest of these children? What could be gained from turning their mother into a criminal, which will now pretty much guarantee that she will never hold a job again? How does traumatically ripping them from their mother’s arms and placing them into the unpredictable foster care system act in their welfare? In this peculiar justice system, which seems to punish poor women for the crime of being poor and of few options, we have contributed to the overall economic and familial instability of the most vulnerable members of society: the children we are supposed to be protecting.

Another statistic to note comes from the American Civil Liberties Union website, which says that girls of color who are victims of abuse are more likely to be processed by the criminal justice system and labeled as offenders than white girls, who are more likely to be treated as victims and referred to child welfare and mental health systems. There is no denying that race too plays a part in how we view black women and their encounters with the justice system. Even more of a reason why Shanesha Taylor deserves our support and the benefit of the doubt.

Marissa Alexander Could Go From A 20-Year Sentence To 60 Years In Prison In Retrial

March 3rd, 2014 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Marissa Alexander retrial

Florida and State Attorney Angela Corey can’t seem to get it right. We were all hoping that because Marissa Alexander was getting a new trial after her sentence was overturned in September, she could get a break since her 20-year sentence (a mandatory penalty because her case involved a gun) was extremely over-the-top. But according to MSNBC, Alexander could now face 60 years in prison for firing what she says was one “warning” shot in the direction of her estranged husband, who was reportedly abusive and attacked her prior to the firing of the shot, which occurred back in 2010. She did so inside of her Jacksonville home and no one was hurt in the confrontation.

The office of State Attorney Angela Corey has made it clear that when Alexander’s trial begins again this summer (set to begin on July 28), Corey and her team will seek to put Alexander away for 60 years because according to a statement put out recently by her team, “Absent a plea agreement, if convicted as charged, the law of the State of Florida fixes the sentence.” According to reports, sentencing laws of the state have changed since Alexander was originally convicted in 2012. She will be retried on three counts of aggravated assault. Alexander’s case became national news because of the fact that she tried to use the state’s Stand-Your-Ground law as part of her defense, a law that has come under great scrutiny over the last few years. Since her case became front-page news, it has inspired efforts to try and expand the state’s “Stand-Your-Ground” laws so that they also include warning shots.

Corey, known for her prosecution of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin, has been accused of having a vendetta against Alexander. Just this past January she tried to have Alexander put back in jail for running errands and driving around with relatives. A request for Alexander’s imprisonment was denied because a correctional service counselor gave Alexander approval to make such trips.

Those behind the Free Marissa Now campaign said in a statement to the press that such a massive sentence would send a message that defending your own life against abuse makes you the bad guy in a court of law:

“Incarcerating Marissa Alexander will send a strong message to all survivors that violence against them will be ignored and they instead will be subject to prosecution if they defend their lives.”

What do you think about State Attorney Corey’s pursuit of a possible 60 years in prison for Alexander?