State’s Attorney Angela Corey is having a very bad year.
Her office has flubbed two high-profile murder trials and now the state’s attorney announced they aim to increase Alexander’s sentence to 60 years if they win a conviction at her second trial. In her original trial, Alexander was convicted on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but in the judge decided she should serve the three counts concurrently, meaning she would be in prison for only 20 years instead of 60 years.
There are three high-profile cases in the state of Florida where a legal firearm was discharged by someone who later claimed self defense. Two of those cases, George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, who both shot and killed unarmed black teens, resulted in acquittals on murder charges. The third is the case of Marissa Alexander, who is awaiting a retrial now with the new threat of 60 years hanging over her head.
Alexander fired a warning shot during a dispute with her estranged husband, Rico Gray, who she says threatened to kill her that day. Alexander was not permitted to use the Florida’s now infamous “Stand Your Ground” defense, and she was originally convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
She was sentenced to 20 years in prison under a Florida mandatory minimum sentencing statute. The jury in her original trial deliberated for 12 minutes before coming back with a conviction, but, after an appeal, Alexander was granted a retrial because of flawed jury instructions.
On the heels of the Michael Dunn verdict, which in many ways reopened the fresh wounds people of color felt after the Zimmerman acquittal, the reaction has been swift and passionate. It seems outside of the realm of what is fair and just to even consider charging Alexander with a crime that would lead to a lifetime behind bars. Even though Alexander’s warning shot didn’t hit anyone at all, to Assistant State’s Attorney Richard Mantei, this is simply Florida following sentencing laws. And the court that will hear Alexander’s retrial has ruled that if a defendant is convicted on multiple counts, then they must serve their sentences consecutively.
But to Alexander’s supporters who have followed all of the high-profile cases prosecuted by Corey’s office that have made national news, Corey appears to have a vendetta against Alexander. While Corey’s office is arguing that they are following state precedent, it’s also true that prosecutors have a huge amount of discretion and power. If Corey wanted to, she could easily conclude that three years behind bars for defending yourself from your abuser is enough and send Alexander home after this ugly ordeal and grave injustice.
Surprisingly the gun rights supporters who spoke up in support of “Stand Your Ground” laws during the George Zimmerman trial remain silent. Second amendment supporters who have encouraged women to get guns to protect themselves from domestic violence and sexual assault are no where to be found in Alexander’s defense. Many who praised Zimmerman’s actions and those that believed his self-defense claims should theoretically support Alexander, but her treatment throughout the legal process shows that only certain people are able to stand their ground.
Corey’s office seems to be spurned by Alexander’s refusal to accept a plea deal before her first trial. Alexander refused to plead guilty in the case and chose to go to trial, as is the right of every American. When she was confronted by Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) about the harsh treatment of Alexander, Corey said she gave Alexander “mercy” and she referred to the plea deal.
Alexander’s supporters Free Marissa put out a statement saying, that Corey’s insistence on moving forward with the trial and now with the maximum possible penalty is a “stunning abuse of power…[And that] [d]espite Corey’s scare and smear tactics, the national Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is resolved to fight for Marissa Alexander’s freedom, and for the lives and freedom of all victims of domestic violence. The campaign calls on the Florida legislature to repeal all mandatory minimum laws, and ensure that judges have discretion over whether sentences can be served consecutively or concurrently.”
A life sentence for a warning shot that injured no one is a miscarriage of justice. Twenty years behind bars for a warning shot that killed no one is a miscarriage of justice as well. Alexander spent nearly three years in prison before she was finally reunited with her family for the holidays late last year. It’s time Corey to drop the charges so that her office can put more energy and attention into the retrial of Michael Dunn who they couldn’t convict and who actually killed someone.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.