A judge sentenced a Jacksonville mother to 20 years in prison on Friday, for firing a gun over the head of her husband, who she claimed physically abused her.
Marissa Alexander, 31, testified that Rico Gray physically assaulted her on August 1, 2010, before she fled to the garage, and, unable to exit through the malfunctioning automatic door opener, returned to the kitchen with her gun. She fired a shot over Gray’s head, causing a bullet to lodge in the ceiling. Gray and his two sons testified that they were together in the kitchen and in fear of their lives, though one of the sons later changed his story, testifying that he and his brother were never in danger.
Alexander’s attorney presented a “stand your ground” defense — attempting to utilize the Florida law has come to national prominence in the Trayvon Martin case — but a judge ruled against her, saying that by returning to the house, she demonstrated that she was not in fear for her life.
The case was prosecuted by the office of Duval County state attorney Angela Corey, who is now prosecuting Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman.
Corey has said that Alexander acted out of anger, not fear.
The 20 year sentence was a mandatory minimum under Florida’s “10-20-Life law,” which mandates sentences for crimes involving a firearm. Alexander was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.
Alexander’s former husband, Lincoln Alexander, attended the sentencing, and said the day was tough on him and on his and Marissa Alexanders’ 11-year-old twins. Their daughter testified at the sentencing, along with other family members.
A group of student activists, the Dream Defenders, protested at the 7 a.m. hearing, as they did in Sanford prior to Zimmerman’s arrest. The judge, Circuit Judge James Daniel, had them removed from the courthouse.
Daniel had previously denied Alexander’s motion for a new trial.
“There was a lot of testimony given at the sentencing about who Marissa was, even before this incident, and who she is as a woman today, being behind bars,” Lincoln Alexander told theGrio. “She still is a caring person. She still asks about her step-kids — the two alleged victims — and of course our two kids. She talked about her baby, who she does not have a relationship [with] today. She misses her and she hopes that one day her and the three kids will be together as one.”
Marissa Alexander and Rico Gray have a daughter. She apparently texted pictures of the child to Lincoln Alexander before the fight that led to the gun incident in 2010, prompting what she called a physical attack by Grey.
According to media reports, after the sentence, there allegedly was a heated exchange between Corey and Rep. Corinne Brown, the Alexanders’ congresswoman, who has been in contact with the family. During that exchange, Brown called the charges against Alexander “excessive,” and an example of “institutional racism.” Reports said Brown’s office is having the case reviewed by “the best domestic violence attorney.”
TheGrio.com has reached out to Brown’s office for comment.
Gray had two previous arrests for domestic violence, including one against Alexander while she was pregnant. Alexander, for her part, pleaded no contest to domestic battery in an incident between her and Gray four months after the gunshot incident.
Lincoln Alexander said he last had the opportunity to speak with Marissa two days before the sentencing, and that she has been “positive this entire time.”
“We’ve known from day one what this sentence could be, and once the verdict was given, we knew at that time that it was the mandatory minimum of 20 years,” he said. “What we wanted to do was put the facts out there and ask the question, why wasn’t she able to use stand your ground as her defense, when other people have been able to use that defense.”
Alexander pleaded no contest in an alleged assault on Gray four months after the incident
She plans to appeal.
This post has been updated.
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