Sunday, February 01, 2015

Marissa Alexander Freed...Well, Sort Of

Marissa Alexander with one of her three children
It seems appropriate to kick off this chilly first day of February with some relatively positive news from the state of Florida concerning the case of Marissa Alexander (pictured left).

I first blogged about this remarkable case of disparity in justice back on October 24, 2014 in response to a call from to sign a petition to Florida Governor Rick Scott to free Ms. Alexander from jail and remove corrupt, controversial prosecutor Angela Corey from the case.

For those who might not be familiar with Marissa Alexander, her case symbolizes overt racial disparities in the state of Florida, not only in terms of its justice system, but in the ability of its citizens to invoke the state's highly controversial 'Stand Your Ground' law to use a firearm to defend themselves from physical harm.
Check out my 2014 blog entry for a more detailed summary of the case, but let's quickly review the facts.

Prior to 2010, Ms. Alexander's husband Rico Gray had beaten her multiple times and after one particularly bad incident she ended up in the hospital and he was arrested. So she got a protective order against him, legally purchased a handgun and got training on how to use it.

On the night of August 1, 2010, just nine days after giving birth to a premature baby girl, Ms. Alexander's abusive husband found out that she had sent some pictures of the baby to her ex-husband; he flew into a rage and physically assaulted her.

He attempted to strangle her so she fled to the garage hoping to escape in her truck; but she couldn't get the garage door open and didn't have her phone to call the police. So she retrieved her handgun from the truck and went back inside in the hopes of escaping.

No luck. Rico Gray was waiting for her and when he saw the gun in her hand he yelled, "I'm gonna kill you bitch!" and rushed at her; she turned her head and fired a shot into the ceiling to warn him off, managing to thwart his attack.

Though she had no prior record, the handgun was legally registered and the warning shot which may have saved her life didn't hit anyone, the police arrested her. Enter prosecutor Angela Corey.

Angela Corey - the face of prosecutorial misconduct & bias
Angela Corey (pictured left) may be familiar as the prosecutor who mishandled the trial against George Zimmerman for the shooting death of innocent unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

In Zimmerman's case the self-described "neighborhood watch" volunteer, in violation of a police dispatcher's request, followed, stalked and confronted Martin as the teen walked home from the store with some candy and a drink.

After a physical struggle ensued, Zimmerman fatally shot the teen in the chest, then invoked the 'Stand Your Ground' law claiming he'd been defending himself.

To be clear, Zimmerman had a documented history of violence prior to killing Martin and had a history of habitually (over 46 times) calling the Sanford, Florida police department to report black males for "suspicious behavior"; yet amazingly, the police still seemed to protect him, waiting a remarkable 44 days before he was even arrested for Martin's killing.

The courts, aided by a highly questionable police investigation and Angela Corey's bungling of the case, eventually validated Zimmerman's use of the 'Stand Your Ground' defense and his taking the life of an innocent teen went unpunished.

In contrast, Marissa Alexander, who'd been defending herself against a husband who'd beaten and threatened her on multiple occasions, was immediately arrested, treated like a criminal and was looking at 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot.

Remarkably, prosecutor Angela Corey insisted Alexander defending herself did NOT qualify as a valid use of the 'Stand Your Ground' law - and in 2013 when an appellate court judge ruled the jury in the first trial had received improper instructions, Corey vowed to seek three consecutive 20-year sentences against Alexander in a new trial. 60 years for firing a warning shot that hit no one. 

Last Tuesday, January 27th a judge denied the vindictive efforts of the prosecution to lock Marissa Alexander away for 60 years, she was set "free", sentenced to two years of house arrest with an ankle monitor plus time already served; this after she spent well over two years in jail.

The prosecution wanted an additional two years of probation on top of that, but the judge denied it.

Marissa Alexander's nightmare be over, but there are still many women imprisoned around the nation in similar circumstances.

According to some startling statistics shared by, 75% of women in prison today are survivors of domestic violence. 82% were victims of severe child abuse.

Black women are 3 times more likely to be incarcerated than white women and there are 832% more women in prison now than there were in 1977.

That's not going to change overnight, but efforts to reform the nation's prison system are moving forward and progress is being made.

One step is simply adding your voice. One of the reasons Marissa Alexander was freed was the pressure kept on Florida Governor Rick Scott by campaigns from a variety of groups that brought national awareness to her case.

Groups like the National Organization of Women, Ultra Violet, Free Marissa Now, Color Of Change, as well as members of clergy all kept the pressure on the state of Florida. And it worked.

It's past time Florida State Prosecutor Angela Corey was removed from her post and her continued presence in the position undermines justice and the rule of law.

Take a minute or two to add your name to the ColorOfChange petition calling for Angela Corey to be removed from office and Marissa Alexander be freed from the two year sentence of house arrest - by the way she also has to pay $105 a week for the ankle bracelet too.

As Marissa Alexander's case shows, every voice can and does make a difference, I hope you'll sign the online petition and share it with someone you know.

Real reform only happens when people demand it.

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