A Florida woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday for firing a warning shot — note: not actually injuring anyone — at her abusive husband.
Marissa Alexander, 31, said that in August 2010, her now ex-husband Rico Gray read messages from her ex on her cell phone, became enraged, strangled her and threatened her life. When Alexander broke free, she tried to run out of the house but couldn’t get out of the garage; so she grabbed a gun from the garage and fired it into the air to attempt to scare Gray off.
No one was injured, but the “warning shot” hit a wall near where his two kids were standing. As such, she was charged and found guilty by a jury of three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, which carries a 20-year sentence.
According to Huffington Post, Alexander said that Rico Gray had repeatedly punched and choked her over the previous year and she truly felt he could kill her. Alexander’s lawyers tried to protect her with Florida’s “stand your ground” law that has been claimed by George Zimmerman, the man who killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, but to no avail.
Marissa Alexander has claimed she fired the warning shot in self-defense because her abusive husband threatened her life. ”I believe when he threatened to kill me, that’s what he was absolutely going to do,” Alexander told CNN. “That’s what he intended to do. Had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.”
Alexander rejected a judge’s plea bargain offer of a three-year sentence, instead opting for a trial by jury. But the same “stand your ground” law that may protect the man who killed Trayvon Martin did not sway the jury that found Alexander guilty in March. The jury, apparently, was swayed by the fact that Alexander ran out of the house from her abusive husband, then came back into the house because the garage door was locked. They said returning to the house did not make sense for someone claiming her life was at risk and that she fired the gun in anger, rather than self-defense. On Friday, the judge agreed.
Not surprisingly, civil rights activists and domestic abuse victims advocates say Alexander, who had no prior criminal record, is being treated so harshly because of her race. Trayvon Martin’s killer Zimmerman, who is Latino, was not charged for over six weeks and a media circus erupted with folks like Fox News talking head Geraldo River leaping to his defense.
Frankly, I agree that this is a miscarriage of justice. It’s not too difficult to see how Marissa Alexander could be so harshly punished because she is black. I would never want to protect the right of someone to threateningly fire a gun in the direction of other people in anger, but it seems like there’s enough evidence here to prove this was a truly dangerous situation for this woman. It makes me feel ill in my stomach that 12 minutes it took for the jury to put Marissa Alexander in prison for 20 years could have been racially motivated. Twenty years seems like an awful long time to be in prison for firing a gun — especially for a woman who may very well have saved her own life.
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.
Image via Huffington Post