Society

Marissa Alexander Challenges 20-Year Sentence for Firing Warning Shot; Is Released Pending New Trial

| by Allison Geller

Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, Fla. was released from prison Wednesday and awaits a retrial for firing a warning shot near her estranged husband in a domestic dispute, for which she received 20 years in prison.

An appellate court ordered a new trial last month, CNN reported, citing incorrect directions that had been given to the jury.

Alexander fired the shot to scare off Rico Gray, who had allegedly beat Alexander on multiple occasions, including when she was pregnant. Gray admitted he had threatened to kill Alexander, News One reported.

“If my kids weren’t there, I knew I probably would have tried to take the gun from her,” Gray said at the trial. “If my kids wouldn’t have been there, I probably would have put my hand on her."

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Alexander’s defense attorney asked him what he meant by “put my hand on her.”

Gray replied, “Probably hit her. I got five baby mammas and I put my hands on every last one of them except for one.”

The 33-year-old mother used the “Stand Your Ground” defense during her trial, but was rejected on the grounds that she had exited her house during the confrontation to get the gun out of her car and returned to fire the shot near her husband’s head.

Alexander had an active restraining order against her husband, as well as a concealed weapons permit.

Alexander’s case has drawn the attention of civil rights leaders and others who believe she was too harshly sentenced. A blog was created for her cause called “Stand Your Ground Marissa Alexander.” George Zimmerman’s acquittal after he killed unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin brought particular interest to this case, in which an African American woman used the “Stand Your Ground” defense, but failed to convince jurors.

“This news is vindication for Marissa and all the women who have become criminalized for exercising their basic right to defend themselves and their children,” Angie Nixon of Florida New Majority, a social justice organization, said of Alexander’s release.

Alexander will have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and follow other conditions of pretrial release. The new trial is scheduled for March 31, 2014.

Sources: CNN, News One, Guardian