Friday, October 24, 2014

Marissa Alexander: Glaring Disparities in the American Judicial System

My comments about Russia may have been a bit harsh in my Tuesday October 21st blog about the drunk plow driver colliding with Christophe de Margerie's plane at a Russian Airport.

I'm a big fan of Mother Russia, but like many others (in Russia, Ukraine, here and elsewhere) I just happen to be one of those people who hold humanity to a higher standard in a modern civilized world.

As far as rules governing behavior, laws that protect citizens and equal access to education and justice are concerned, that expectation goes for  my own country as well.

For example the systematic unequal application of justice in this country where prosecutions, application of the law and incarceration are concerned.

Case in point: a Florida mother named Marissa Alexander (pictured above center).

If any positives came out of the travesty of justice that occurred when George Zimmerman was found not guilty for following, confronting and then murdering innocent teenager Trayvon Martin, it was the increased focus directed on the tragic case of Marissa Alexander - and the questionable actions of a highly controversial Florida state prosecutor named Angela Corey.

Back in July of 2010, just nine days after giving premature birth to a baby girl, Alexander's abusive ex-husband Rico Gray arrived at her residence, physically attacked her, attempted to strangle her and threatened to kill her. Alexander, fleeing for her life, ran into the garage to escape but the door was locked.

With no other options she retrieved a legally registered handgun from her car and fired a single warning shot into the air to scare off her rampaging ex. The shot didn't hit or hurt anyone, it struck some drywall in the ceiling over Gray's head - and saved her life.

Enter Florida prosecutor Angela Corey (pictured below) a prosecutor known for excessively harsh sentences against black defendants, who would later gain national recognition for bungling the prosecution of George Zimmerman for murdering unarmed teen Trayvon Martin; and be the subject of multiple state investigations.

One for firing staff member Ben Kruidbos out of spite after he testified about improprieties in the prosecution of a criminal case, and another for  using tax-payer funds to pad her retirement pension.

Remarkably, Corey charged Alexander with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, then tried to convince the stunned domestic abuse victim to take a plea deal that would have meant three years in prison - for firing a gun in the air to protect her life.  

Alexander refused, insisting she had a right to defend herself. The case went to trial, she was found guilty and sentenced to a state-mandated sentence of 20 YEARS in prison.

Alexander had NO prior record and under the same Florida 'Stand Your Ground' laws that enabled George Zimmerman to walk free after killing a teenager, by all rights she clearly had a right to use the gun to protect herself from harm, right?
Controversial Florida prosecutor Angela Corey

That might seem obvious to us, but not to Florida state prosecutor Angela Corey (pictured left) who seems to be on some kind of vindictive personal vendetta to keep Alexander incarcerated despite mounting evidence from multiple witnesses (including her ex Rico Gray) that her life and physical safety were in fact threatened by her ex.

Is Corey stubbornly trying to protect her career rather than admit the original charges filed against Alexander were excessive rather than serve justice in this case?

A growing group including legal advocates, outraged citizens, the National Organization for Women (NOW), domestic violence advocates, the progressive activist group Color of Change, human rights activists and clergy members including the Reverend Al Sharpton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson all say yes.

Multiple witnesses, including women who had been in relationships with Alexander's ex Rico Gray, wrote letters to the state prosecutor's office offering to testify that Gray had a documented history of extreme physical abuse - but none were allowed to testify at Alexander's first trial.

But then on September 26, 2013, after Alexander's conviction, an appellate court ruled the jury in the first trial had been issued incorrect instructions and ordered a new trial; one month later, three years and four months after being attacked by Rico Gray, Marissa Alexander was finally released on bail pending her new trial.

But the nightmare isn't over for Alexander. Amazingly, Angela Corey plans to prosecute Alexander again; and has announced plans to seek THREE consecutive 20-year sentences.   

This past July, Alexander's attorneys tried unsuccessfully to be granted a new hearing to argue that the warning shot was permitted under 'Stand Your Ground' laws so she should be immune to prosecution but Circuit Judge James H. Daniel denied it.

The Florida legislature amended the 'Stand Your Ground' law this past June to include warning shots - but the judge ruled she can't use it retroactively since the amended law took effect after the incident occurred.

So Marissa Alexander will once again face prosecution by Angela Corey in December, only this time she's facing 60 years. That's a picture of the justice system in America.

Where Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' laws can be used by George Zimmerman to be acquitted of murdering an unarmed African-American teenager with no criminal record with a handgun; but the same law does not apply when a black woman uses a handgun to fire a warning shot to prevent an abusive man from trying to kill her.

What's the 'Stand Your Ground' law really for then? And who is it intended to protect?

You could ask US airman Michael Giles (pictured above) - he stood his ground too, shot his attacker in the leg and got 25 years. But the answer seems obvious doesn't it?

*There's still time to make a difference before the trial starts in December. Click this link to add your voice to a petition to Florida Governor Rick Scott to free Marissa Alexander and remove Angela Corey from her post as a prosecuting attorney.

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