Guest Post: Help Marissa Alexander


This is a guest post by my friend Sophie Hirschfeld, who asked me to post it here to spread the word as far as possible and encourage people to help avoid another racially biased tragedy in Florida. Everything below the fold is her words.

By Sophie Hirschfeld:

During the peak of discussion surrounding the Zimmerman case, the man who killed Trayvon Martin, a poster was circulating around Facebook and Twitter, highlighting the injustice in Florida’s legal system, where Zimmerman could go free, but a woman named Marissa Alexander faces 20 years in prison for discharging a firearm in order to scare off her abuser. I won’t go into details about the discussion that poster often caused, but something that I mentioned to someone was that if this were a huge concern, why is it that nobody posting that have shared anything else in relation to Marissa’s case? I saw nobody linking to fundraisers so she could appeal her case, again. I saw no petitions to change the laws that forced her into an unreasonable mandatory sentence and I was seeing nobody advocating any support groups towards helping her with her cause. Fortunately, one of my good friends was paying attention and did the foot work to find some resources. And, now, I will share them with you. Please help make all of these things go viral, as well.

From my friend, Megan:

The FB page for her case is https://www.facebook.com/FreeMarissaNow?fref=ts, the petition to Governor Scott for her freedom is at http://www.change.org/petitions/florida-governor-rick-scott-free-marissa-alexander, Governor Scott can be emailed directly at http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/, and the Paypal for her legal defense fund is at http://www.justice4marissa.com/.

Comments

  1. Draken says

    If you mail Scott, you’ll have to be polite to him, I’m afraid. ‘Murderous wanker’ may not make it to his desk, nor does ‘clueless gobshite’.

  2. left0ver1under says

    Draken (#1) – Nor would “Welfare King” get much response.

    For those who don’t know, Scott is owner of Solantic, the company that did drug testing on welfare recipients. The money wasted on testing far exceeded any “savings”. Scott’s real goal was corporate welfare fraud, to put taxpayer dollars into his own pockets (to the tune of ~$20,000 per month).

  3. Michael Hanson says

    Marissa Alexander faces 20 years in prison for discharging a firearm in order to scare off her abuser.

    Thats not exactly the whole story. Alexander claims she felt her life was at risk, but she left the house and went into the garage, retrieved a handgun from her car and returned (returned being the key word here) to the kitchen where her husband and his two children were. She then fired the”warning shot”, nearly hitting her ex in the head. That she even tried to invoke an SYG defense when she already left the house is ridiculous.

    This explains why the jury took less than 15 minutes deliberating her conviction.

  4. left0ver1under says

    This guest post is preaching to the disconcerted. Many of hose who dislike the hypocrisy and racism in US courts already know about Ms. Alexander’s false conviction and the incompetent and biased judge. But it’s definitely appreciated to hear where money and support can be sent for her benefit.

  5. suttkus says

    I haven’t gotten all the relevant details on this yet, but if her children are in her house with an abusive male, I don’t see why going back means she doesn’t feel threatened. It means she feels something else more.

  6. cthulhusminion says

    @3

    She also was arrested for assaulting her husband while out on bail for this.

  7. brandon says

    I gotta chime in on this one. There are so many facts being left out of the Internet outrage machine.

    1. Like Michael Hanson said, Alexander left the house, got her gun, came back inside, fired the warning shot then left. Even if you think she was justified in doing so, she definitely could not claim it was in self defense.

    2. She fired a freaking gun into the air in the same room as her children. It was nothing but pure luck that the bullet didn’t ricochet and hit one of the children in the head.

    3. I am having a hard time finding unbiased details about this case, but it sounds like Alexander was also physically abusive to the family. The incident preceding the gunshot was just an argument, the ex-husband never hit or threatened her before she left to get her gun. I could be wrong about this one. If somebody has a link that just gives the facts on this case with no editorializing, I would appreciate it.

    The 20 year mandatory minimum sentence is bullshit, but Alexander is absolutely guilty of her crime. I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for her.

  8. brandon says

    suttkus: The fact that she didn’t take the children with her after firing the warning shot, not to mention the fact that she fired a warning shot in the same room as her children, makes me think she wasn’t caring about her children that much. One of the rules of gun safety is that you never fire your gun unless you intend to hit what you’re shooting at.

    vicvanity: Thank you for the link. It looks like I got the facts straight, except that Gray was the husband, not ex-husband, and he was also physically abusive.

  9. Donnie says

    I was under the impression that she had multiple restraining orders against her husband and that he was breaking the current restraining order. However, it is nice to know the following while living, or travelling in, Florida:

    1) Always keep a gun on your body and not locked in a gun safe or other secure location
    2) First, Make sure that you stalk your abuser
    3) Gas light your abuser, so that the abuser makes the first move
    4) Do not *EVER* fire a warning shot to scare off your abuser – Shoot to Kill! Else, you are only proving that you are not “really, really ” in danger of your life

  10. Pieter B, FCD says

    OK, I know it’s the Daily Beast, but this article paints a very different picture from Michael Hanson et al.

    Gray admitted in his deposition there had been “about four or five” incidents of domestic violence with Alexander prior to the shooting incident, including when he “pushed her back and she fell in the bathtub and she hit her head.” He said that she went to the hospital and he went to jail for that.

    In describing his abuse of another woman he said, “She just wouldn’t shut up.” So he hit her in the mouth. Asked about another woman he had a relationship with, Gray said, “She got hit in the mouth, same thing.”

    As for the day of the shooting incident, he says when he saw the texts on Alexander’s phone he pushed his way into the bathroom to confront her. He said in the deposition: “I was mad, you know. I said, what the f—- is this, and you know, I told her that … if I can’t have you nobody going to have you … She ain’t shit.”

    Gray said that when she tried to leave the bathroom, “I met her where the sink was, and she wanted to get by me and I wouldn’t let her by and I was backing up slow but I was using my body to pretty much contain her in that one area where I want her to be at. [S]he got the bathroom door closed and she locked it, so I were beating on it. [I] was there waiting for her to come out of the bathroom.”

    “I was in a rage. I was in a rage, so I was saying a lot of things.” He said, “I beat on the door hard enough where it could have been broken open. [P]robably has some dents.” And: “I was mad, you know … I called her a whore and a bitch.”

    […] He described her going to the garage, “but I knew that she couldn’t leave out the garage because the garage door was locked …” He reiterated, “I knew she couldn’t get out of the garage.”

    “She came back through the doors and she had a gun [from her car]. And she said, ‘You need to leave.’ I told her, I ain’t leaving until you talk to me … and I started walking towards her and she shot in the air.”

  11. DaveL says

    I haven’t gotten all the relevant details on this yet, but if her children are in her house with an abusive male, I don’t see why going back means she doesn’t feel threatened. It means she feels something else more.

    A little fly in that ointment: immediately after the shot, those children fled the marital home with the husband. Clearly they were more afraid of her than of him.

  12. matty1 says

    Nitpick re ‘stand your ground’ and the Zimmerman case. It is my understanding that the defence never tried to argue stand your ground at the trial. References to it came from off hand remarks by police trying to justify to the press why Zimmerman was originally not even arrested.

  13. Jordan Genso says

    @matty1

    PatrickG commented the other day regarding SYG, covering the topic pretty well. Here it is:

    Many people on this thread keep saying SYG wasn’t invoked. This is partly true, but mostly false. Since I’m getting more than a little tired of watching people say this…

    Here’s the actual text of the bill as enrolled in 2005:

    ENROLLED

    2005 Legislature CS for CS for SB 436, 1st Engrossed (ntc)

    1

    2 An act relating to the protection of persons

    3 and property; creating s. 776.013, F.S.;

    4 authorizing a person to use force, including

    5 deadly force, against an intruder or attacker

    6 in a dwelling, residence, or vehicle under

    7 specified circumstances; creating a presumption

    8 that a reasonable fear of death or great bodily

    9 harm exists under certain circumstances;

    10 creating a presumption that a person acts with

    11 the intent to use force or violence under

    12 specified circumstances; providing definitions;

    13 amending ss. 776.012 and 776.031, F.S.;

    14 providing that a person is justified in using

    15 deadly force under certain circumstances;

    16 declaring that a person has no duty to retreat

    17 and has the right to stand his or her ground

    18 and meet force with force if the person is in a

    19 place where he or she has a right to be and the

    20 force is necessary to prevent death, great

    21 bodily harm, or the commission of a forcible

    22 felony; creating s. 776.032, F.S.; providing

    23 immunity from criminal prosecution or civil

    24 action for using deadly force; defining the

    25 term “criminal prosecution”; authorizing a law

    26 enforcement agency to investigate the use of

    27 deadly force but prohibiting the agency from

    28 arresting the person unless the agency

    29 determines that there is probable cause that

    30 the force the person used was unlawful;

    31 providing for the award of attorney’s fees,

    Note there are two major sections to this bill. One amends §776.012 and §776.031 to add language removing the duty to retreat. This is Stand Your Ground. Right there, that’s it. That’s all that SYG laws mean: they remove the duty to retreat and add the right to, well, stand your ground.

    The other major component adds §776.032 to forbid arrest and provide immunity unless there is probable cause that the force used was unlawful.

    When people keep bringing up that Zimmerman did not invoke SYG, they’re referring to §776.032, whether or not they realize it. Zimmerman could have requested a hearing to seek immunity from criminal and civil trial. He chose not to, instead opting for a jury trial with self-defense as legal strategy. Note that this section has nothing to do with the jury trial; instead, it would have prevented such a trial from taking place should the outcome be favorable to Zimmerman. On a side note, the defense publicly stated that they would consider seeking a §776.032 hearing after the prosecution presented their case, presumably if things were going poorly for Zimmerman.

    However, just because Zimmerman didn’t opt for a §776.032 hearing does not mean he’s not taking advantage of SYG, because the bill modified the definition of justifiable use of force in Florida statute.

    People keep saying he didn’t invoke SYG, and again, that’s partly true. He did not seek immunity from arrest and trial through a SYG pre-trial hearing, though I would predict that the moment he gets sued in civil court, he will do so.

    However, the claim is mostly false because SYG is now part of the criminal code, and the jury instructions specifically mentioned he had no duty to retreat. He didn’t have to stand up in court and declaim “I was standing my ground”, and people claiming that he didn’t use a SYG defense are either misguided or disingenuous in the extreme. SYG is now an inherent part of claiming self-defense in the first place, and that is where things have gotten truly fucked up.

    This may seem pedantic, but it’s an important distinction that people seem to either be unaware of or ignore.

    Also, if you want some links to the relevant code and some media reporting on this issue, go to my comment in Zingularity’s thread here, covering the same ground. I’m not in the mood to relink everything.

  14. Jordan Genso says

    @13 matty1

    The most important part of PatrickG’s comment was:

    However, the claim is mostly false because SYG is now part of the criminal code, and the jury instructions specifically mentioned he had no duty to retreat. He didn’t have to stand up in court and declaim “I was standing my ground”, and people claiming that he didn’t use a SYG defense are either misguided or disingenuous in the extreme. SYG is now an inherent part of claiming self-defense in the first place, and that is where things have gotten truly fucked up.

  15. Who Knows? says

    Pieter, thanks. My impression is that Hansen and others aren’t exactly unbiased in their description of the events. It would be nice to have an accurate account.

  16. Who Knows? says

    A little fly in that ointment: immediately after the shot, those children fled the marital home with the husband. Clearly they were more afraid of her than of him.

    Not really indicative of anything. Children growing up in abusive relationships generally don’t act in ways that are rational or make sense to the rest of the world. It could just be they feel safer not alienating the stronger of the two people in the relationship.

  17. Pieter B, FCD says

    Thanks, Jordan. I had been trying to Google that comment up, having forgotten where I had read it.

  18. Michael Hanson says

    @ Pieter B, FCD: Her recollection of the events wasn’t supported by the physical, circumstantial or eyewitness evidence, so much so that it took the jury literally less than 20 minutes to deliberate.

  19. kyoseki says

    Bear in mind that the “warning shot” wasn’t fired vertically, she didn’t discharge the gun into the ceiling.

    The shot was fired horizontally, penetrated the wall behind the husband’s head and embedded itself in the ceiling of the adjacent room.

    She didn’t even call the cops after the incident, the husband did that.

    Now, one can argue that the mandatory minimum of 20 years is way too heavy for an incident in which nobody actually got hurt, and I’d probably agree, but portraying this woman as an innocent victim of domestic abuse trying to defend her children is spectacularly disingenuous.

  20. Donnie says

    hmmmmm…..I am a young kid and I have grown up in an unstable environment. One parent appears with a gun and fires shots. I have two options: 1) RUN; or 2) “Stand-Your-Ground”

    I suppose you feel that the kid(s) should have stood their ground, eh?

  21. Donnie says

    Let’s look at the ‘Trending Articles’ at MediaTracker, m’kay….

    No, Marissa Alexander’s Conviction Was Not a “Reverse Trayvon Martin” Case in Florida
    Florida
    Ohio Lawmaker Proposes Expanded “Stand Your Ground,” Concealed Carry Reciprocity
    Ohio
    Zimmerman Prosecutor Angela Corey Lashes Out, Fires Whistleblower
    Florida
    BREAKING: Rep. Rhonda Fields’ Rap Sheet Longer Than Previously Reported
    Colorado
    Colorado Union Boss Makes 500% More than Members
    Colorado

  22. says

    I agree that under the elements, she’s guilty of something unless Florida has a broader-than-usual Castle-doctrine. Her claim of self of self defense is bullshit and we don’t want to make it legal to threaten people with guns who aren’t an immediate risk. However, this sentencing is ludicrous. This seems like something that should have led to loss of a gun license, a few hundred dollar fine and maybe a weekend in jail. If I’m reading the statutes correctly, she would have gotten the same for actually shooting him, providing he survived.

  23. says

    I looked it up. Here’s Florida’s castle law:

    http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0776/Sections/0776.013.html

    Since she had allowed him entry to the house and he just wouldn’t leave when told, this doesn’t apply.

    I think this is the big defect in the law. If someone has lawfully entering your dwelling, but won’t leave when permission is revoked, this should be seen as a major mitigating factor that severely reduces the severity of the crime. (I think a serious misdemeanor would be appropriate.) As is, Florida law sees no difference between using force to expel someone who is unlawfully in your home, but poses no immediate threat and using force against someone who looked at you wrong at the bar, even though there are parallel distinctions in all kinds of other laws.

    Presumably, prosecutorial discretion is usually supposed to deal with this sort of thing, but it’s notoriously unreliable.

  24. kyoseki says

    Pieter B, FCD

    OK, I know it’s the Daily Beast, but this article paints a very different picture from Michael Hanson et al.

    From CNN

    Gray said he lied during his deposition after conspiring with his wife in an effort to protect her. At the hearing, he denied threatening to kill his wife, adding, “I begged and pleaded for my life when she had the gun.”

    This was an extremely abusive relationship, the husband was a real piece of shit, but Alexander wasn’t much better – note that she was arrested for assaulting Gray while she was out on bail because he wouldn’t let her spend the night.

    This wasn’t a self defense case or a battered woman trying to protect herself, this was an argument that got out of hand and escalated when she retrieved a gun from her car to threaten her husband with (note that the law does not allow you to brandish firearms in order to resolve a situation, even in Florida).

    The sentence is bullshit, but there isn’t a state in the country that wouldn’t have convicted her.

  25. Who Knows? says

    Donnie,

    I suppose you feel that the kid(s) should have stood their ground, eh?

    No, I’m saying we should not draw conclusions from what children do. Especially those involved in abusive relationships. Seems I was pretty clear on that.

  26. Pieter B, FCD says

    Rico Gray’s pre-trial deposition, full text

    In it, Gray states

    I honestly think she just didn’t want me to put my hands on her anymore so she did what she feel like she have to do to make sure she wouldn’t get hurt, you know. You know, she did what she had to do.

    […] The gun was never actually pointed at me. When she raised the gun down and raised it up, you know, the gun was never pointed at me. The fact is, you know . . . she never been violent toward me. I was always the one starting it. If she was violent toward me, it was because she was trying to get me up off her or stop me from doing.”

    We might also note that Gray is over six feet tall and weighs about 245 pounds. Ms Alexander is 5’2″ and relatively slim. Gray states that on a couple of occasions he tossed her out of the house with little effort.

  27. Pieter B, FCD says

    Gray said he lied during his deposition after conspiring with his wife in an effort to protect her.

    How are we supposed to decide which time a serial batterer is actually telling the truth? Might there have been some threat of prosecution which persuaded him to be a “good” witness for the state?

  28. kyoseki says

    This would be the same deposition he already admitted to lying in?

    Gray said he lied during an initial deposition when he said he had been the aggressor because the couple had settled their differences and gotten back together. He said he didn’t want to see his wife go to prison.

    It was after Alexander assaulted him again less than five months later that he decided to no longer support her. She pleaded no contest to domestic battery in that incident and was sentenced to time served.

    If he had followed her to the car as she retrieved the weapon and continued to threaten her, then she would probably have been justified in shooting him, but the fact that she specifically left the situation and returned to threaten him is the crux of the issue here.

  29. Donnie says

    Who Knows?

    You missed my sarcasm. I understood, and agreed with your proposition. The kids ran because someone had a gun and was firing. It was irrelevant that the husband ran as well and to relate those to events together does not make a causal relation – as you said.

  30. kyoseki says

    Pieter B, FCD

    How are we supposed to decide which time a serial batterer is actually telling the truth? Might there have been some threat of prosecution which persuaded him to be a “good” witness for the state?

    If there is, please unearth it, because now you’re speculating.

    Given the evidence we’ve seen, this appears to be an argument that got out of hand. She retrieved the gun to threaten him with, which isn’t legal, then she discharged a warning shot, which also isn’t legal – bear in mind that warning shots can (and do) kill innocent bystanders, which is specifically WHY they’re not legal.

    If he had continued to follow & threaten her when she went to the car to retrieve her gun, then she could have made a reasonable claim of self defense, assuming that she stated that she shot at him but missed rather than firing a warning shot, but that’s not what the evidence (or in fact any testimony) says happened, is it?

    She was apparently offered a plea deal which would have resulted in 3 years in jail, but she chose to go to trial which is why the (admittedly excessive) 20 year minimum kicked in.

  31. says

    I think three years would have also been excessive. This should be serious misdemeanor territory once you account for the mitigating factors, which the law doesn’t for some reason, even though lots of similar laws do.

  32. kyoseki says

    Ace of Sevens

    I think three years would have also been excessive. This should be serious misdemeanor territory once you account for the mitigating factors, which the law doesn’t for some reason, even though lots of similar laws do.

    Given the fact that nobody was actually injured, I’d be inclined to agree.

    The real issue here is the idea of mandatory minimum sentencing, which really needs to go (apparently even the 3 year offer was another mandatory minimum).

  33. liz321 says

    The question is

    Should a woman who did not actually physically hurt anyone–no matter which version of events you believe–be serving 20 years in prison?

  34. Michael Hanson says

    @ Ace of Sevens and everyone else questioning why the sentence is so long.

    Florida and a number of states passed “get tough on gun crime laws” where any felony in which a firearm was involved had an additional sentence added to it. Since Alexander’s crime (aggravated battery I assume) was perpetrated with a firearm, the sentence of only a few years automatically has another 20 added to it because a firearm was involved.

    Mug someone with a knife, get 3 years .. mug someone at gun point get 23.
    Break into a home, get 18 months, break into a home while armed, get 21.5 years,
    And so one.

    Remember that the next time some self righteous poltico talks about “getting tough” on guns ,.. there are many unintended consequences.

  35. says

    @37: Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, in this case. It’s not battery since she only threatened hi. I assume the prison lobby bought this legislation.

  36. kyoseki says

    The 20 year enhancement was for discharging a weapon.

    It’s 10 years if you commit a crime with a firearm, 20 if the firearm is discharged and 25-Life if anyone gets shot.

    The charge was three counts of aggravated assault, a class 3 felony.

  37. says

    Without going to all of the trouble of reading reams of self-serving bullshit by both defense counsel and prosecutor it sorta boils down to this; the prosecutor has discretion in charging and decided, for reasons I have no idea about, to charge the woman.

    The husband is, given his own testimony, a rage-a-holic, serial battterer and all around dick. Why the woman (or women in this case) even give a fucker like him the time of day is beyond me. She should have just shot the piece of shit and lied about lit, like Zimmerman did with the black-o-perp that assaulted him with skittles, soda and a sidewalk.

    FL laws are color-blind, the judges, juries, prosecutors and cops are not.

  38. vicvanity says

    Donnie , yes that was me and if you took any time to notice , I haven’t posted or been there in well over 8 or 9 yrs now. peoples views do change .

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