JACKSONVILLE — A Florida woman getting a new trial after a court overturned her 20-year prison sentence for firing what she called a warning shot at her husband will not be released from jail, angering dozens of people who rallied for her Oct. 31.
About 50 people representing domestic violence survivors rallied in front of the Duval County Courthouse in support of Marissa Alexander, who was in court for a bond hearing. They said she should have been released from jail because she was unfairly convicted and sentenced.
The protesters compared the case to the trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted earlier this year in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Both cases have brought into question Florida’s “stand your ground” law which generally allows people to use deadly force if they feel threatened.
Alexander’s attorney, Bruce A. Zimet, said after the hearing that the case will go to trial again and that he had not expected prosecutors to drop the charge. A judge set another bond hearing for Nov. 8 and Zimet hopes Alexander, who has spent two years in prison, will be granted bail.
“I don’t think anyone who’s sitting in jail wants to be in jail,” he said. Jury selection was set to begin March 31 for the new trial. Alexander, dressed in a gray prison uniform, was quiet during the hearing, allowing her attorney to speak for her.
The Sisterhood of Survivors, a group of domestic violence victims and survivors, chanted loudly outside the courthouse before and after the hearing, demanding Alexander’s immediate release.
“This is a reflection of the inequities of the justice system,” said the group’s spokeswoman, Marcia Olivo. Anthony Heard, with a group called “Free Marissa Now,” said he believes race played a part in her prosecution, conviction and harsh sentence. Alexander is black. Groups including the NAACP also have argued Alexander’s case reflects a justice system that is skewed against African Americans. Alexander, who had never been arrested, has said she fired a warning shot one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. No one was hurt but the judge in the case said he was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison after she was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
The judge threw out Alexander’s “stand your ground” self-defense claim, noting that she could have run out of the house to escape her husband but instead got the gun and went back inside. Alexander rejected a plea deal that would have resulted in a three-year prison sentence and chose to go to trial. A jury deliberated 12 minutes before convicting her. Alexander was also charged with domestic battery four months after the shooting in another assault on her husband. She pleaded no contest and was sentenced to time served. State Attorney Angela Corey, who oversaw the prosecution of Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon, has stood by the handling of Alexander’s case. Corey said she believes that Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.