‘Stand Your Ground’ law: Zimmerman goes free, but Marissa Alexander gets 20 years?

marissaFlorida’s “10-20-life” law was implemented in 1999 and credited with helping to lower the violent crime rate.

Here’s how it works: anyone who shows a gun in the commission of certain felonies gets an automatic 10 years in prison. Fire the gun, and the sentence goes up to an automatic 20 years. Shoot and wound someone, and it’s automatically 25 years to life. The judge has no discretion if the defendant is found guilty.

Critics say Alexander’s case underscores the unfair sentences that can result when laws strip judges of discretion.

U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown, D-Jacksonville, was present at the sentencing, where she and Corey had a brief, terse exchange afterward as sign-toting supporters rallied outside the courthouse.

“The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today,” Brown said afterward. “One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the ‘Stand Your Ground Law’ will not apply to them. The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently.”

Victor Crist was a Republican state legislator who crafted the “10-20-life” bill enacted in 1999. He said Alexander’s sentence – if she truly did fire a warning shot and wasn’t trying to kill her husband – is not what lawmakers wanted.

“We were trying to get at the thug who was robbing a liquor store who had a gun in his possession or pulled out the gun and threatened someone or shot someone during the commission of the crime,” said Crist, who served in the state House and Senate for 18 years before being elected Hillsborough County commissioner.

Terry Shropshire
Terry Shropshire

A military veteran and Buckeye State native, I've written for the likes of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Detroit Free Press. I'm a lover of words, photography, books, travel, animals and The Ohio State Buckeyes. #GoBucks



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