Don’t look now, but Marissa Alexander stands the chance of going to prison for 60-years if convicted of shooting at — or, in the direction of depending on your level of sympathy you have for her — her then estranged husband after an argument ensued between them. Having written about this case on different occasions there’s no need to go back into details of the case.

All you need to know is that she was originally sentenced to 20-years for firing a handgun at her husband and his two children, hence the 3 counts of aggravated assault. Her conviction was overturned on appeal, and she is currently awaiting a July 28th trial date for the same crime. Alexander claims to have acted in self-defense but a jury of her peers found her guilty.

And they convicted her because clearly they were racist, right?

Alexander’s own actions were ultimately used against her self-defense claim. While she was out on bail, awaiting trial on her aggravated assault charges, Alexander was arrested for domestic battery against Gray. Although her bail contract specifically prohibited any contact between her and Gray, Alexander went to her husband’s house — where she wasn’t living at the time — and after an altercation, he ultimately called police.

 

When the police contacted Alexander about the incident, she first said she didn’t know what they were talking about, and she hadn’t been at the house, but later she stated that Gray attacked her because she wouldn’t stay with him overnight. Alexander never called police and later stated she was scared. According to police reports, Alexander had no injuries, but Gray had a bloody swollen eye and told police Alexander had punched him.

 

In Gray’s initial deposition to police, he said he would have hit Alexander if she had really tried to threaten him, in an effort to help her and get her potential sentence reduced. Alexander and Gray collaborated on that story while she awaited trial, but Gray later admitted that it wasn’t true and that she really did threaten him and did fire a shot at him.

 

In 2009, Alexander filed charges against Gray, claiming he tried to choke her, but she went to the Florida District Attorney’s Office and said that wasn’t really what happened and then all charges were dropped. According Richard Kuritz, attorney for Gray and his two children, Gray has never been convicted of any violent act toward Alexander. Kuritz said the only time Gray has been arrested for domestic violence was an incident involving his brother and those charges were also dropped. (source)

Supporters of Alexander have maintained that her original conviction was a grave injustice. To them, it doesn’t make sense that a woman — a black woman — had to serve a 20-year sentence for defending herself by firing what Alexander called a “warning shot” to ward off a physically abusive husband during a heated exchange. To that point, I imagine this latest news out of Jacksonville in the wake of the recent verdict in the Michael Dunn trial, doesn’t sit well with her supporters.

This from Jacksonville.com:

The same appeals court that ordered Alexander’s retrial separately ruled last year that when a defendant is convicted of multiple counts under 10-20-life that arose from the same crime, judges must make the sentences consecutive and are not allowed to impose them concurrently.

 

The law has not changed since Alexander was sentenced in 2012, but courts throughout the state have been struggling to interpret what the Legislature meant when it passed sentencing laws regarding 10-20-life.

 

The conviction was thrown out after the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ruled that Daniel made a mistake in shifting the burden to Alexander to prove she was acting in self-defense. During jury instructions, Daniel said she must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was battered by her husband.

 

[…] “It’s unimaginable that a woman acting in self-defense, who injured no one, can be given what amounts to a life sentence,” said Free Marissa Now spokeswoman Helen Gilbert. “This must send chills down the spine of every woman and everyone who cares about women and every woman in an abusive relationship.”

 

Seeking 60 years is an incredibly abusive and outrageous action by Corey, Gilbert said.

 

[…] But Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei, the lead prosecutor in the case, told the Times-Union his office was simply following the sentencing laws of the state of Florida.

 

The same appeals court that ordered Alexander’s retrial separately ruled last year that when a defendant is convicted of multiple counts under 10-20-life that arose from the same crime, judges must make the sentences consecutive and are not allowed to impose them concurrently.

 

The law has not changed since Alexander was sentenced in 2012, but courts throughout the state have been struggling to interpret what the Legislature meant when it passed sentencing laws regarding 10-20-life.

 

[…] Mantei said the appeals court ruling demanding consecutive 20-year sentences dictates that if Alexander is convicted of the same three counts, Daniel will be required to sentence her to 60 years in prison.

 

“Absent a plea agreement, if convicted as charged, the law of the State of Florida fixes the sentence,” Mantei said. “At this time, Ms. Alexander has rejected all efforts by the State to resolve the case short of trial.”

 

[…] The Florida Supreme Court is expected to take up the issue of whether Florida law requires multiple 10-20-life sentences to be consecutive. While the 1st District has ruled that judges must make sentences consecutive, other appellate courts in Florida have said judges can impose sentences concurrently.

Don’t be mad, folks; it’s the law.

Once again, none of you will agree; however, Michael Dunn is facing 60-years for essentially the same crime (3 separate counts just like Alexander hence 60-years). But, I expect none of you to take that into account and turn this into some personal vendetta by Angela Corey. Which as I’ve said from the beginning, the issue in this case was not Stand Your Ground. Instead, it was about Florida’s “10-20-Life” gun enhancement law (read here). By pulling the trigger unlawfully in a situation where someone isn’t hurt, a defendant faces a mandatory 20-year sentence if convicted. So, again, if you think Alexander is being treated unfairly, this just isn’t true. Why? Because it is the standard.

Marissa-Alexander_stand-your-groundMaybe now supporters of Alexander would finally get it; but, it’s highly unlikely that most of you will. Why? Because in your collective minds, it’s about race. To many of you, Alexander’s situation and this latest development is yet another example of a racially biased system of justice. Which is funny because if Dunn gets 20-years and not 60-years, many of you would be mad. And, many of you would be of the opinion that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, much like folks did after Alexander was sentenced after her original trial. But hey, maybe 20-years is a lot better than 60-years for shooting at 3 people whether they’re unarmmed in a home or in an SUV trying to run.

Here are 3 things to consider before you comment:

  • Alexander shot at her then husband and two children (read here).
  • Alexander was never assaulted – her husband lied then recanted.
  • Alexander was not present when police arrived after firing the alleged “warning shot”.

In the interest of justice, I would say that the inconsistencies in mandatory sentencing under Florida’s 10-20-Life law is a huge problem. If the law says that sentencing in crimes involving multiple victims should be consecutive on all counts, then that’s how it should be applied. The issue here as I see it, isn’t that a black woman is being treated unfairly under the law per se. It’s that there is ambiguity on the part of judges in Florida who issues these sentences.

As stated by Jacksonville.com, it is an issue that could, should, and more than likely be taken up by Florida’s Supreme Court. Should Alexander be convicted and sentenced to 60-years in prison, on appeal, her case could be the catalyst for the necessary changes of sentencing guidelines. To that point, it is up to her supporters and like-minded people to focus on Florida’s 10-20-Life legislation, and not the state’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law as they most egregiously are.

There’s a problem with mandatory minimum sentences in this country, and that should be the focus. And to be fair, it is crazy for Alexander to be sentenced to 60-years if convicted of 3 counts of aggravated assault with a weapon. And yes, such a sentence reeks of cruel and unusual punishment, which is deemed unconstitutional thanks to the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, as a staunch advocate for gun control laws, I do support the laws intent as related to gun crimes.

I do also support and advocate domestic violence legislation.

However, in this case, I believe that in trying to advance a worthy cause, many folks are dangerously misrepresenting the facts of the case. Which to me, is a not in the interest of truth and justice for all. That said, we cannot pretend that gun violence and domestic violence isn’t real, no?