- (Photo: Twitter/Marissa Alexander)
Marissa Alexander is facing up to 20 years in prison for firing a single warning shot as her ex-husband attempted to strangle her. She has filed a petition claiming she should not serve time under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, but authorities report that it simply does not apply in this case, angering critics of the law and many familiar with Alexander's case.
In March, Alexander was home when her ex-husband entered the residence and attacked her.
"He assaulted me, shoving, strangling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing all while I begged him to leave," Alexander wrote in a blog.
"I was terrified from the first encounter and feared he came to do as he threatened (end her life). In fear and a desperate attempt, I lifted my weapon up, turned away and discharged a single shot in the way up the ceiling," she noted.
She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault and could be sentenced to 20 years in prison for the alleged crime. However, lawyers are working to prove that Alexander falls under the protection of the controversial Stand Your Ground law that George Zimmerman first attested to after shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
"This is a clear case of domestic violence against Marissa," NAACP branch President Isaiah Rumlin told Jacksonville.com news. "After looking into it and studying the case, this is a clear case of Stand Your Ground as it relates to what she had to do on the date that she did it."
Alexander's ex-husband, Rico Gray, has a history of domestic battery and violence. Her first husband, Lincoln, has attested to Marissa's innocence, even testifying that she was hospitalized the night of the shooting. He has also launched a website in support of Marissa, claiming that it is a clear case of domestic violence.
Why, then, does the Stand Your Ground law not apply?
"The defendant had split seconds to decide if she was in fear for her life, and ultimately the judge found that there were other things she could have done like leave the residence through a front door or a back door," defense attorney Jesse Dreicer told FirstCoastNews.com.
A sentence was expected in the case yesterday, but now authorities say it could be weeks before Alexander learns of her fate. No matter what happens, though, her attorneys are expected to appeal the ruling.
Many can't help but wonder what the difference is between Zimmerman's fatal shooting and the shot fired by Alexander that went into a ceiling.
"There's a double standard with Stand Your Ground," Rumlin told Yahoo news. "The law is applied differently between African-Americans and whites who are involved in these types of cases," he explained.
Alexander Abad-Santos of the Atlantic Wire has written that Florida's law is "complex in that those seeking justice for Trayvon Martin may have to side with a prosecutor who denies Alexander's plea for a 'stand your ground' ruling like the one that was initially afforded to Zimmerman."
"Given Stand Your Ground's record of serving as an afterthought to prejudice, it's not surprising to learn that the statute appears to apply unequally across races and genders," notes Slate.com's Katy Waldman.
"It is interesting to consider that George Zimmerman shot and killed someone and was released by police and Marissa Alexander shot no one and could face a lengthy prison sentence," Lauren Victoria Burke of Politic356 wrote.
Whatever happens in both cases is sure to leave at least some people unhappy, which is why the bill is being reconsidered and could even be repealed this year. Until then, it remains to be seen what will happen with Alexander and Zimmerman, but the light is shining brightly on Florida's law right now, putting pressure on lawmakers to decide what is truly fair and just.