Florida woman with Stand Your Ground defense released but not exonerated

In 2010 Marissa Alexander was in yet another altercation with her abusive husband who was threatening to kill her. With children in the house, rather than fleeing, she went to her car and retrieved her shotgun. When the husband, Rico Gray, pursued her into the garage* she fired a warning shot into the wall near him. Despite the circumstances of the case, a jury found her guilty and she was sentenced to twenty years in jail. This month, on appeal, she was convinced to plead guilty to other charges and get out of prison with time served.

On Monday, Alexander agreed to a plea deal that gives her a three-year prison sentence. The Florida-Times Union reported that the Duval County courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla. will credit the time she has already spent in prison, giving Alexander a release date of Jan. 27.Alexander was convicted after she fired a warning shot at her estranged husband, Rico Gray, back in 2010 because she felt threatened by him.

The Stand Your Ground defense was used by Alexander, but the judge denied her claim of self-defense. The judge said that Alexander could have escaped her abusive husband rather than retrieving the gun from the car and running back in the house to shoot him.

Alexander said she shot at the wall where her husband was standing near their two sons.

There was little question as to the husband’s history of violence. I watched a short interview with him this week and the guy is the size of a Sasquatch. He admits to having five “baby mamas” and that he has “put his hands on” all of them but one.

Gray himself admitted in a deposition to abusing “all five of his babies’ mamas except one,” and to hitting Alexander. Alexander’s family and supporters say that Gray’s testimony should not be trusted, because he perjured himself by changing his account of events on the night of the shooting between his early depositions and later court hearings — a claim that was not disputed by Corey, the state attorney.

While it’s nice that Alexander is out of prison, she was still forced to keep a violent conviction on her record and will do two years of house arrest, so this is no redemption at all. The woman had been repeatedly punched and beaten by this giant of a man, one who was known to have assaulted and endangered the lives of at least four other women in the past. God only knows if he would have gone off on the children had the mother fled the scene. All things considered, Gray is actually very fortunate that his wife didn’t just take the shot and go for center of body mass. (And given his size, he might well have survived a single shotgun blast at that range anyway.) A warning shot was a case of remarkable self-control under the circumstances.

The courts in Florida* need to have their collective heads examined. Marissa Alexander was protecting her own life and the lives of the children in her own home. Yet now she will spend two years under electronic monitoring while her violent ex husband walks free.

*Update: (Jazz) This post has been modified from the original. The court is in Florida, not California. (Though I will maintain that most California courts need their heads examined also.) Additionally, the location of the shooting in the house is reported differently in recent television coverage and a few online articles. It may have taken place in the kitchen rather than the garage.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022