From the perspective of millions, George Zimmerman was shockingly set free by a jury for asserting his “Stand Your Ground” rights. But another Floridian, Marissa Alexander, was recently put away in prison for 20 years because she fired a bullet into a wall to scare off her husband from beating or killing her, setting off another storm of outrage about double standards.
The African American Alexander, 31, had never been arrested before she fired her gun in her house in 2010 in Jacksonville, Fla., just a few hours’ drive from Sanford to repel her spouse from beating her.
Despite the fact that this mother of three — including a toddler — said she was “standing” her ground because her husband was tearing through her house after her, the judge said had to sentence her to a Florida minimum sentence for committing a crime with a firearm.
Nobody got hurt, but the Florida judge said he was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison.
Alexander, tried to invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law and rejected plea deals that could have gotten her a much shorter sentence. A jury found her guilty of the following charges: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Because she fired a gun while committing a felony, Florida’s mandatory-minimum gun law dictated the 20-year sentence.
Her case has inspired a fresh round of criticism aimed at mandatory-minimum sentencing laws. The local NAACP chapter and the district’s African American congresswoman are trying to fight back, but to no avail thus far.
It also has added fuel to the controversy over Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which the judge would not allow Alexander to invoke. State Attorney Angela Corey, the same woman who decided to charge George Zimmerman with second-degree murder (which failed) in the Trayvon Martin case, says her office stands by their decision to prosecute Alexander. Corey says she believes Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.
At the sentencing on May 11, Alexander’s relatives begged Circuit Judge James Daniel for leniency, but he said the decision was “out of my hands.”
“The Legislature has not given me the discretion to do what the family and many others have asked me to do,” he said.
Here is how Alexander and Florida got to this point and who’s responsible for pushing for this ridiculous law in the first place: