Today, Marissa Alexander may finally get to go home. Not permanently, but at least during the course of her upcoming trial.
Alexander’s defense team will be in court Wednesday for a bond hearing, where they will request the 32-year-old Florida woman be released, which would finally allow her to spend time with her now 3-year-old son, who was only eight months old when the incident occurred. Alexander was denied use of Stand Your Ground and was convicted and sentenced to a mandatory 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband, Rico Gray, Sr.
If Alexander’s defense team prevails, she will be free to go home as she awaits her new trial which is set to begin on March 31, 2014. Wednesday’s bond hearing is a standard legal proceeding that most Americans are familiar with on the basis of crime procedurals. Alexander’s lawyers will make the case that Alexander is not a flight risk nor a danger the community.
Alexander was awarded a new trial because the court ruled that the jury instructions on self-defense were erroneous. Alexander’s legal team argued that the erroneous jury instruction “improperly shifted the burden to [Alexander] to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that [Alexander’s husband] Mr. Gray was committing or was about to commit an aggravated battery when she discharged her pistol. At trial, the only real issue was whether she had acted in self-defense when she fired the gun.”
Essentially, by including the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” in connection with self-defense, the jury improperly believed that Alexander had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was acting in self-defense. It is the prosecution that has to prove that Alexander was guilty of assault with a deadly weapon beyond a reasonable doubt.
Alexander claims she fired a warning shot in the air; Mr. Gray claims she shot in the direction of him and their two small children who were present at the time of the incident. Alexander a survivor of domestic abuse, and with knowledge of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, says she knew Florida law didn’t require her to retreat from her own home.
Even in the face of post-Zimmerman-verdict public pressure to release Alexander, Florida District Attorney Angela Corey refuses to drop the charges, avoiding this second trial. Today’s bail hearing may or may not be a revealing moment in terms of whether the Florida has had any change in strategy or has has a moment to reflect on public opinion. The court’s reasoning for refusing Alexander’s request for pretrial release at her first trial was that the volatility in her relationship with Mr. Gray was ongoing; nearly 3 years later, that’s not the case.
Alexander’s case has become one of many in the ongoing debate over Stand Your Ground laws and discriminatory application when the shooter is black. Alexander’s case stood out as a clear example of injustice because she was shooting a warning shot that harmed no one during a physical altercation with her abuser.
Wednesday, Alexander will finally be back in court and since circumstances have changed greatly since her original trial, a judge could release her on bond and she could finally be reunited with her three children.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.