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Florida Judge denies ‘Stand Your Ground’ retrial to female black defendant


31-year-old Marissa Alexander was cornered by her abusive husband when she fired a warning shot into the ceiling of their home, using a gun she was licensed to carry. The August, 2010 incident led to the Jacksonville, Florida resident’s conviction of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to newspaper The Florida Times-Union.

Her defense attorney, Kevin Cobbin has filed numerous motions for a retrial on grounds that her case is within the bounds of instances covered under the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, but Florida Circuit Court Judge James Daniel on Thursday denied them all. Critics of the judge’s ruling, including the local NAACP, charge that Alexander’s race has been a factor in her sentencing and denial of a retrial.

Alexander claims she was acting in self-defense, that her husband, Rico Gray, attacked her when he found messages to her ex-husband on her cell phone. Gray has said in testimony that he had previously warned Alexander that he would kill her if he ever found out that she had been unfaithful. In her panic, she ran to the garage, hoping to escape. Once there, she found that she did not have her keys and that the garage door was broken.

“I knew I had to protect myself,” she told CNN in an interview from behind bars, “I believe when he threatened to kill me, that’s what he was absolutely going to do.”

Feeling that there was no other route of escape, Alexander armed herself and re-entered the house. Gray confronted her, threatening to kill her once again. The mother of three turned her face away and fired a warning shot into the ceiling in hopes that Gray would back down, which he did, taking his children from a previous relationship and fleeing the house.

No one was hurt, but now Alexander is facing a mandatory 20-year sentence with no chance of parole. She turned down earlier plea deals that would have offered her three years in jail, maintaining that she only fired the gun in self-defense.

Defense attorney Cobbin has cited Gray’s previous arrests for domestic violence and insists that his client’s actions were legal under “Stand Your Ground.”  Both Circuit Court Judge Daniel and Circuit Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt, however, have ruled against Alexander.

Jacksonville NAACP head Isaiah Rumlin told the Times-Union that the evidence speaks to a miscarriage of justice, “After looking into it and studying the case, this is a clear case of Stand Your Ground as it relates to what she had to do on the date that she did it.”

The group sent a letter to Judge Daniel asking him to postpone his ruling and suggesting that Alexander’s race, gender and economic status were factors in the court’s handling of the case.

Daniel was unmoved. “Maybe I would be agreeing to a new Stand Your Ground motion, which highlights some of the difficulties we are struggling with procedurally implementing this new law,”he wrote, “but ultimately the motion is denied.” In his opinion, Alexander’s decision to re-enter the house was “inconsistent with a person in genuine fear of his or her life.”

“Stand Your Ground” was invoked by one of the defense teams that have represented George Zimmerman, Jr., the volunteer neighborhood watch captain who shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in the chest, killing him, earlier this year.

The blog Wonkette reacted to Judge Daniel’s ruling by saying, “In Florida, as it turns out, being in ‘genuine fear of your life’ means that you’re white and your attacker is black, so clearly that was her first mistake.  Also, if you really want to Stand Your Ground you have to call the police only to ignore their instructions anyway, so there’s that. And crucially, it doesn’t say anywhere if her husband was wearing a hoodie when he was threatening to beat her up, which we hear is a relevant aspect of whether or not black men are actually scary.”

Marissa Alexander’s sentencing is scheduled for May 11.



Demand Justice for Trayvon Martin – Tuesday, April 10 – 6 P.M. Union Square NYC

All who are planning to participate in worldwide protests on April 9 and 10 to demand justice for Trayvon Martin should consider recent developments regarding the grand jury as an important reason to double their efforts to make the protests massive and determined.

The announcement by special prosecutor Angela Corey that a grand jury — that had originally been scheduled to take up Trayvon Martin’s case on April 10 but is now not going to do that — can only be viewed as confusing at best and troubling at worse.

This is not the news that people across the country, indeed across the world, had been waiting to hear. Justice demands an arrest for murder, not another excuse for a delay — which is what the special prosecutor’s announcement amounts to.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Six weeks have come and gone since Trayvon was murdered for being Black and young. The prosecutors and police have had plenty of time to reverse their clumsy efforts to sweep this murder under the rug and do what every rational freedom-loving person demands: arrest George Zimmerman.

Yet, as of this date, the only people who have been arrested in the Trayvon Martin case, have been six students protesting for justice by blocking the doors of the Sanford, Fla. police station.

The delay of justice is unacceptable. The unprecedented mass movement for Trayvon that has blossomed over the last three weeks, can only view more delays as a sign that the powers that be are not yet getting the message: No justice, No peace.

Moreover, if the delay of justice continues, or if the special prosecutor announces that Mr. Zimmerman will not be arrested and charged with murder, the incredible protest that have already taken place in reaction to Trayvon’s murder, will pale in comparison to the mass outrage that such an announcement would provoke.


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