Plea deal ends Florida ‘warning shot’ case

Stand Your Ground

In a case that garnered all of its attention due to a “stand your ground” defense, has ended via a plea deal. A women accused of firing a gun at her estranged husband and his two sons in what she claimed to be self-defense, arguing that she feared for her life before discharging the weapon.

Marissa Alexander is charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the 2010 shooting. She will receive credit for the 1,030 days she has already served, under the deal with the prosecutors.

Marissa Alexander | Law
Marissa Alexander in her car in Tampa, FL

Had the 34-year-old Alexander, of Jacksonville, been convicted of all counts at her second trail in the case, she would have had to serve 60 years because of Florida’s minimum-mandatory sentencing rules when a firearm is involved.

A jury deliberated for just 12 minutes during her first trial, before delivering a guilty verdict. Under Florida Law, anyone who fires a gun during a commission of a felony is subject to a minimum of 20 years in prison, which was her original sentence. Alexander’s conviction was overturned 21 months into her punishment, by an appeals court judge, who said the previous ruling had incorrectly placed a burden on Alexander to prove that she was abused by her estranged husband Rico Gray.

Marissa Alexander | Stand Your Ground
Marissa Alexander at a hearing in Jacksonville, FL

At the first trial, her attorneys said the “stand your ground” law, best known in George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, was pertinent in Alexander’s case. The law says individuals have no duty to retreat from a place where they have a right to be and may use any level of force, including deadly, if they reasonably believe they have imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death.

Those laws are active in about half of the states and came under renewed scrutiny in 2012 following the shooting death of unarmed Martin by volunteer Zimmerman, in a housing complex in Sanford, Florida. While his defense did not use part of the law, “stand your ground” language was included in the jury instructions at his trial.

According to Alexander, Gray accused her of having an affair and questioned whether their 9-day-old baby was his. She says she locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door and shoved her to the floor. She says she tried to escape through the garage but the door wouldn’t open. She retrieved a gun from a car, went back inside and says she fired a “warning shot” after Gray said he would kill her; an account backed by one of his sons. No injuries occurred.

The plea deal came soon after the judge in the case decided to allow evidence that Gray had abused women in the past. This is just another example as to why a skilled criminal defense lawyer is so important when dealing with a criminal charge. Something seemingly so simple, such as allowing a certain piece of evidence into trial, can be the difference between a prison sentence and a plea deal.

Alexander will have to wear an electronic tracking device for two years, nonetheless she will be able to lead a fairly normal life, including taking her kids to school and shopping.