No Self-Defense For Abuse Victims

Photo courtesy "Support for Marissa Alexander" via Facebook

Photo courtesy “Support for Marissa Alexander” via Facebook

Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, in what appears to most as a retaliatory decision, has tripled down on the sentence to be served should the retrial of Marissa Alexander deliver a guilty plea.

Marissa Alexander’s nightmare began that fateful night when she defended herself by firing a warning shot to stop her abusive husband from beating her. Just days before, she had given birth. Her estranged husband, Rico Gray, accused her of being unfaithful and alleged the baby was not his. When he went into a rage, Marissa locked herself in the bathroom. He broke the door down and shoved her to the floor. She somehow was able to escape his grip and ran to the garage, where she retrieved a gun from a car. She then fired a warning shot to stop Gray from attacking her and following through with his threat to kill her.

Prosecutors say the shot hit the wall, not the ceiling, and could have hit Gray or his children. At one point they offered Alexander a plea deal of three years in prison. She turned that down and chose to go to trial.

By moggs oceanlane (Flickr: Abuse: power & control behaviors) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By moggs oceanlane (Flickr: Abuse: power & control behaviors) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

According to a report in The Grio, “Corey has argued vehemently that the victims were Gray and his two sons, who were in the kitchen when Alexander returned from the garage and fired a gunshot into the kitchen ceiling of her and Gray’s home. Corey contends that they were the true victims in the 2010 gun incident, and that Gray was subsequently victimized in a second confrontation with Alexander on December 30, 2010, in which Alexander was arrested for misdemeanor battery, and her bond back then was revoked. In their bond motion this week, Alexander’s lawyers argued that it was she who was beaten in that December 2010 incident, providing email messages from Gray that included the line: “If I can’t have you nobody can.”

Corey’s triple-down sentence of 60 years in prison for Alexander stems from Florida’s 10-20-Life law. This law provides that possession of a firearm while committing certain felonies is punishable by at least 10 years in prison, while discharging a firearm while committing those felonies is punishable by at least a 20-year sentence. Hurting or killing someone in those circumstances requires 25 years to life in prison.

Alexander has to be found guilty of a felony for the 10-20-Life sentencing guidelines to apply. This case has now brought legislation forward in Florida that would make exceptions to this law for cases like Alexanders, but it does not address the underlying issues that make this particular case so reprehensible. Also at argument is whether the three 20-year terms Corey holds over Alexander will be served concurrently or consecutively.

Corey does not seem to understand that one in every four women in the US will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Every nine seconds in America, a woman is abused or assaulted. In 2010, 113,378 crimes of domestic violence were reported to Florida law enforcement agencies, resulting in 67,810 arrests; a fact Corey seems completely oblivious to. These statistics do not reflect the incidences that are never reported.

Image By moggs oceanlane (Flickr: Abuse: cycle of violence) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image By moggs oceanlane (Flickr: Abuse: cycle of violence) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The “Stand Your Ground” laws we have seen in the headlines does not apply to Alexander. The court has determined she can not use this law in her defense. Apparently the “Stand Your Ground” laws are only a defense if you are a man wielding the gun, not if you are a woman defending herself. “Stand Your Ground” is a MAN’S law, so they can control popcorn throwing and texting in theaters, as well as radio volumes and the use of hoodies and ice tea in their neighborhoods. Can you imagine what would happen if women were empowered with laws that would allow them to escape their abusive situations without fear of separation from their children or of serving prison time? For not having taken a life, Florida intends to punish Marissa for the rest of her life.

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About MNgranny

An activist since the age of 17, MNgranny embraced the Occupy Movement from its beginning. After earning a BA in Mass Communications and enjoying a 30 year career, she is now disabled and dedicates her life to changing the world for the next generation. Her experiences include volunteering in community service organizations and taking leadership roles throughout her academic and professional life. She is also a survivor of rape and domestic violence, a published author and a master naturalist. She has focused for the last several years on studying Middle East geopolitical impacts, and specializes in Kurdish history, culture and politics.

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