Stand Your Ground Laws Apparently Don't Apply to Everyone

In an environment already rife with anger and debate over the highly-televised Zimmerman trial, Florida makes another contentious decision: this time with a woman claiming self-defense from her allegedly abusive husband.

Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville received 20 years in prison when she attempted to argue that the state's "Stand Your Ground" law protected her when she fired warning shots against her husband back in 2010. According to the law, the victim of a crime does not have to attempt to run for safety and can immediately retaliate in self-defense.

Rather than take a plea deal for aggravated assault for 3 years, Alexander was determined to prove her innocence. Unfortunately, the justice system thought differently.

Alexander's husband Rico Gray, 36, stated in his deposition that the cause of the fighting was text messages to Alexander's first husband on her phone. Gray and Alexander were already estranged, and Alexander even had a protective order out against Gray. Gray apparently began calling her names, said "If I can't have you, nobody going to have you," and blocked her from exiting her bathroom.

To most people in this situation, it would probably feel pretty threatening: grounds for some sort of defense. Alexander pushed past the man, went to her garage, retrieved her gun from her car's glove compartment and told Gray to leave. He refused. Again, this would probably seem like a threatening situation and warrant the kind of behavior protected under Florida's Stand Your Ground law. 

What happened in the next few minutes was a little unclear. Gray said, "She shot in the air one time," prompting him and the children to run out the front door. But when Gray called 911 the day of the incident, he said, "She aimed the gun at us and she shot."

According to a judge, Alexander was rejected immunity under the "Stand your Ground" law because, "There is insufficient evidence that the Defendant reasonably believed deadly force was needed to prevent death or great bodily harm to herself," and that the fact that she came back into the home, instead of leaving out the front or back door "is inconsistent with a person who is in genuine fear for her life."

Interestingly, Alexander's case was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the very same state's attorney who was prosecuting George Zimmerman. At the end of the day, regardless of the circumstances, within 15 minutes a jury charged Alexander with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Because she actually discharged her weapon, the case fell under Florida's "10-20-life" law, which creates a mandatory 20-year sentence for use of a gun during the commission of a crime. This was Alexander's first-ever offense.

Her case has drawn more attention from viewers of the Zimmerman trial and specifically from domestic abuse advocates. Understandably, it's a frustrating comparison to neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense in his fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. He, under much more troubling circumstances, received a "not guilty" verdict.

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Alexandra Cardinale

Alexandra Cardinale curious, quirky, and vivacious student currently researching Communications, Business and Law at New York University. Her extensive study in 16 countries have given her a unique perspective on both domestic U.S. policy and current international policy outside. She works to apply this inquisitive point of view to her writings here at PolicyMic and to any and all of her political discussions.

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