Free Marissa Alexander’ Petitions Emerge in Support of Woman Serving 20 Years for Warning Shot
By Nick Wing
In 2012, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in jail for firing a warning shot at the wall of her home in what she said was an attempt to ward off her abusive husband.
The 31-year-old Florida mother had never been arrested for another crime, and the bullet she fired that day didn’t strike anybody. Adding to the controversy, the judge rejected Alexander’s effort to invoke the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows a potential victim to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat. She was ultimately found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, based in part on her husband’s testimony that she had intended to shoot him, but missed. The charges subjected her to a two-decade minimum jail sentence.
In the wake of a Florida jury’s recent acquittal of George Zimmerman, Alexander’s case — and the state’s “Stand Your Ground” statute — have received newfound scrutiny. A flood of petitions have been submitted to MoveOn.org’s platform and elsewhere, calling for her release and noting the sentencing disparity and differing outcomes of Zimmerman and Alexander’s trial.
While prosecutors in Alexander’s case have rejected that there are parallels between her case and Zimmerman’s, Alexander’s supporters have claimed that the judge’s refusal to allow a “Stand Your Ground” defense is proof of a racial bias at play in the law.
“The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today,” Rep. Corinne Brown (D-Fla.) said after Alexander’s conviction last year. “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.”