20 Years for Standing Her Ground

A Florida woman faces prison after firing a warning shot to scare off an abusive husband.

"I got five baby mammas, and I put my hands on every last one of them except for one," Rico Gray confessed during a November 2010 deposition. "The way I was with women…they had to walk on eggshells around me." He recalled punching women in the face, shoving them, choking them, and tossing them out the door.

Yet somehow, after one of those women fired a warning shot into the ceiling of her Jacksonville, Florida, home to scare him away during yet another violent outburst, prosecutors managed to convince a jury that Gray was the victim. As a result, Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of three, faces 20 years in prison for standing her ground against an abusive husband.

Gray has been arrested twice for domestic battery, including an assault that sent Alexander to the hospital. In September 2009 Alexander obtained a protective order against Gray that was still in effect on August 1, 2010, when he flew into a jealous rage after discovering, while poking through her cellphone, that she had sent pictures of their newborn daughter to her first husband.

Alexander was in the master bathroom at the time, and Gray tried to force his way in. When she came out, he screamed and cursed at her while preventing her from leaving the bedroom. "I was like forcing her back with my body," reported Gray, who is seven inches taller than Alexander and outweighs her by 100 pounds.  

When Alexander managed to get by, she ran through the kitchen to the garage, where she says she realized she did not have the keys to her car, could not call for help because she had left her cellphone behind, and could not escape because the garage door was not working. Instead she grabbed her handgun from her car and headed back through the kitchen, where Gray confronted her again.

In his deposition Gray admitted he "had told her if she ever cheated on me I would kill her" and during the fight said, "If I can't have you, nobody can." He conceded he "was going towards her" when Alexander fired a single shot, high and to his right, that went through the kitchen wall and lodged in the ceiling of the living room. Finally he left, along with his two sons.

"The gun was never pointed at me," Gray said. "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." If his sons hadn't been in the house, Gray said, "I probably would have tried to take the gun from her," and "I probably would have put my hand on her."

But at the July 2011 hearing where Alexander argued that the charges against her should be dismissed because she had acted in self-defense, Gray—who immediately after the fight portrayed her as the aggressor, then said in his deposition three months later that he had lied out of anger—changed his story again, saying he had lied in his deposition to protect her. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt rejected Alexander's motion to dismiss, saying she could have escaped through the front or back door instead of going to the garage.

Yet Florida's self-defense law says "a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat" if "he or she reasonably believes" it is necessary to prevent "imminent death or great bodily harm" or "the imminent commission of a forcible felony." In 1999, furthermore, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a woman attacked by her husband in the home they share has no duty to flee.

On March 16, after deliberating for 12 minutes, a jury convicted Alexander on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Although she injured no one, she faces a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence unless she can win a new trial.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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  • ||

    Standing her ground?

    That's racist.

  • ||

    And now for something completely different.

    http://vimeo.com/41393068

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    What the fuck jury is going to put her away for 20 years for something Roscoe P. Coltrane used to do on a regular basis?

  • ||

    "...prosecutors managed to convince a jury that..."

    What strikes me about the jury selection process isnt just that the prosecution deliberately singles out the most braindead to serve, but that the defense does as well, at least in the two cases that I watched.

  • Bucky||

    reasoning what a concept...
    that and not using emotion in decisions...
    just consider how Owebama became pres. and the above story doesn't surprise anyone...

  • TELLMOFF||

    Suthenboy, American jurors arive at court convinced that the prosecutor should be accommondated because he is an authority figure. America is the modern-day Nazi Germany. Americans are no good; don't blame stupidity.

  • Loki||

    My wife and I have both had the same experience when called for jury duty:

    Q: "What do you do for a living?"

    A: "Aerospace Engineer."

    "You're dismissed."

    They wouldn't want anyone on the jury who might actually be able to think.

  • fried wylie||

    wait, why is your career relevant? I mean, aside from the relevance to their jury-stacking efforts.

  • Loki||

    It isn't. Unless it's a civil case involving an aerospace company, and then you'd think having a jury member that actually knows something about aerospace engineering would be a plus.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Overqualified for jury duty. Only in America.

  • keddaw||

  • R C Dean||

    You should see:

    Q: "What do you do for a living?"

    A: "Hey, Bob. You know good and well I'm a lawyer. Been doing any fishing?"

  • ||

    "You're dismissed."

    Exactly my experience.

  • yonemoto||

    hm, I was at jury selection when someone answered, "nuclear fusion physicist", and then totally got called onto the jury.

  • ||

    no, you were not.

  • 16th amendment||

    Libertarians (who are inherently smarter :) need to try to be on a jury. Normally, people don't want to serve on a jury because it's tedious and you get paid very little. People love to get out of jury duty. But it's good to do it at least once in five years. You can even get to practice jury nullification. I read a guide on this. Can't find the link now. But they recommend: looking bored and pissed that you have to be there, getting a subscription to Time and other mainstream magazines. They give tips on how to answer questions that don't give away that you support jury nullification. In this case, though, jury nullification does not look to be the saving grace because there is a stand your ground law.

    Anyway, did the defense actually try to use the stand your ground statute? It's actually rare for it to be used, but maybe if they did bring it up they might have won.

    As an aside, I wonder how MSNBC would handle this case.

  • Zair||

    I'd love to be a juror. I got notification once ever, and didn't get called in for that one. Was kinda looking forward to it. Oh well.

  • Pi Guy||

    They also go thru alphabetically and I'm in the W's so I'd never even gotten to be considered on three separate occasions.

    Point is, I really don't think that anyone whose last name starts with any letter after, say, H, has ever served on a Harford County, MD.

    Jury of your peers, from A-G. :D

  • ||

    "I got five baby mammas, and I put my hands on every last one of them except for one"

    Pity she didn't shoot him. Nothing lethal, just something to make him think twice

  • ||

    Actually, I imagine if she had made the world a better place by killing the cretin, no charges would have been filed. She probably would have claimed self defense successfully.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    True. "Warning shots" are a bad idea. Either you need to shoot him, or you don't show the gun, much less fire it.

  • Pi Guy||

    And shoot to kill. Why else would you have a firearm?

    You think they're gonna kill you? Shoot first.

    Disclosure: NOT a gun owner but fully support the 2nd Amendment. If enough people are packing, it would foment some doubt in the minds of would-be criminals, methinks, and I wouldn't even have to carry myself. Just switch the fear a bit to cover both of you and your attacker has lost some significant power over you. And me.

  • ||

    My grandaddy told me when I was young enough for it to make an impression -
    " If somebody's gonna be scared, its gonna be them."

    He carried a chief's special with the hammer spur filed off in his pocket his whole life. Everybody knew it, so he never had to pull it out even once.

  • JW||

    You just want to be Baby Momma #6, don't you? His ideal qualifications as a mate and father are making you shotgun ovulate RIGHT NOW.

    Think of it this way, if she had rightfully shot his dick off, she wouldn't have left him with the mental capacity to testify so eloquently.

  • Super Hans||

    "shotgun ovulate", now that's funny.

  • dehaul||

    You are being sarcastic... but I am sure there is a woman right now attempting to turn him from his violent ways.

  • perlhaqr||

    I'm a guy and I think I might be ovulating now. Clearly, he is a man's man.

  • Jerryskids||

    Nothing lethal, just something to make him think twice

    It doesn't work that way. Shooting somebody is assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder unless you are justified in killing someone in self-defense. When the gun comes out, it has to be in order to kill someone.

    And that may be the problem here - the fact that she fired a warning shot would seem to indicate she herself did not believe she was in mortal peril. Had she had proper firearms training she would have known that you do not pull a gun out to threaten someone, you pull a gun out to kill them. If you aren't prepared to kill someone, you have no business with the gun.

    Had she shot the guy, she would probably not have been charged. Had she been properly trained, she would have known that. I blame the gun laws that allow people to get away with not having firearms and firearms training. All citizens should be required to have the means to defend themselves - you can't be some leech on the state expecting someone else to provide for your defense. (Only a little hyperbole here.)

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

  • Pi Guy||

    ^THIS^

    Said same thing few comments up. Sorry for premature postulation.

  • JW||

    On March 16, after deliberating for 12 minutes, a jury convicted Alexander on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

    Brain and brain! What is brain!?

  • BMFPitt||

    If I ever get absolute power, there is going to be such the purge of prosecutors.

  • ||

    If I ever get absolute power, there is going to be such the purge of prosecutors.

    I won't do anything nearly so drastic. My reforms will include an overhaul of the voir dire process and mandatory instructions to the jury that they sit in judgement not only of the facts of the case, but of the law itself.

  • Pi Guy||

    And be sure to hand out jury nullification pamphlets.

  • ||

    Whoa there Karl. You would be missing the opportunity of a lifetime to rid society of some of the most amoral, vile, power hungry slime on the planet. How many future AG's, Presidents, Senators, etc would you be saving future generations from?

    Think of the children.

  • ||

    If I ever get absolute power, there is going to be such the purge of prosecutors.

    I won't do anything nearly so drastic. My reforms will include an overhaul of the voir dire process and mandatory instructions to the jury that they sit in judgement not only of the facts of the case, but of the law itself.

  • SusanM||

    Dick:
    The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

    Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4

  • JW||

    Wait! There's a video of the voir dire process.

  • ||

    i've actually been on a jury, and the quality was surprisingly high. Only one person who shouldn't have been there.

  • JW||

    That only reinforces Australia's status as Bizarro America.

  • JW||

    Sorry, that was the prosecutor. Here is the correct film.

  • ||

    ...and his father uses him as a wastepaper basket

    That's weirdly poignant

  • JOB||

    @ 2:42 "But Mr. Figgis is no ordinary idiot. He's a lecturer in Idiocy at the University of East Anglia." . . . hmmmm. Must be part of the Climate Change Department.

  • KevinP||

    The prosecutor in this case was Angela Corey, now persecuting Zimmerman with second degree murder charges - please represent this in the article.

  • fried wylie||

    The prosecutor in this case was Angela Corey, now persecuting

    Pause.

  • fried wylie||

    (paging Groovus, I need a proscription.)

  • Almanian...still||

    I got a fever, and the only thing that can help it is....more drones!

  • niobiumstudio||

    No surprise here - she is also the prosecutor for the Christian Fernandez case. Always good to try for life w/o parole for an 11 year old offender. Especially when that offender was severely sexually abused and his "victim" (brother) only died because his mother waited 8 hours (while he was unconscious) to take him to the emergency room...
    http://justice4juveniles.wordp.....fernandez/

  • Pi Guy||

    No. F#@&ing;. Way.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    Doesn't the gal have some cousins who can go maim the guy. It shouldn't have to happen, in a "modern" society, but what other recourse does she have.

    Probably not enough of the family is together to take care of things.

  • Almanian...still||

    "Pedro offers you his protection...."

  • Bucky||

    someone should say something here about the 'no snitching' attitude...

  • Mensan||

    It times like this that I think, maybe becoming the Punisher isn't such a terrible idea.

  • UvalDuvalCuckoo||

    Reminds me of the Dave Chappelle Law & Order bit when he discusses OJ. "Oh Hell now, we'd have whooped his a55 the first time he put his hands on my sister..."

  • cherokeejack||

    There is no justice in this verdict and must be overwhelmingly rejected by the courts and the press...

  • Harvard||

    Perhaps no justice, but there IS a moral.
    Never piss away a warning shot. Largest mas; shoot repeatedly; until you hear the click.
    Ergo, one witness, who owns the testimony.

  • Drake||

    Damn shame. Hopefully an appellate judge will toss the whole thing.

    She should have known the proper way to defend herself physically and legally.

    Two shots through his chest - and make sure the biggest carving knife in the kitchen is in his hand before the police arrive.

  • SusanM||

    She should have know that being black in addition to being one of "them uppity wimmin" there's really no "legal" way to defend herself in a Red State.

  • Drake||

    Really? And the jury, what were they?

  • sarcasmic||

    And the jury, what were they?

    A group of mindless turds selected for their inability to think for themselves and eagerness to obey the judge's instructions.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Actually, Susan, it's Team Blue that has a problem with people being able to defend themselves... that's the job of the police, y'know.

    /snark

  • ||

    When seconds count, the police are minutes away.

  • Loki||

    See, I don't read a story like this and think "she got screwed because of her skin color and/ or gender (PATRIARCHY!!!!!111!!!!!! OMG RACIZM!!!!!11!!!eleventy!!!!11"

    I read this and think "she got screwed by 12 brain dead morons on the jury and the fact that she didn't kill the asshole, which would have left only her version of events for the 12 brain dead morons to hear."

    I guess that's why I'd never make it as grief-mongering liberal.

  • fried wylie||

    I guess that's why I'd never make it as grief-mongering liberal.

    It's a start.

  • Mensan||

    The victim didn't even oppose her version of events. He admitted under oath that he regularly beat her and other women.

  • Loki||

    But at the July 2011 hearing where Alexander argued that the charges against her should be dismissed because she had acted in self-defense, Gray-who immediately after the fight portrayed her as the aggressor, then said in his deposition three months later that he had lied out of anger-changed his story again, saying he had lied in his deposition to protect her.

    Actually he kept changing his story apparently. Which had I been on the jury would have immediately made his testimony suspect in my eyes. But of course, I would have never made it past the voir dire process (see comment above in respinse to Suttehnboy @7:12 AM).

    Like I said: 12 brain dead morons.

  • UvalDuvalCuckoo||

    Right b/c if she was a woman in say, NYC, San Fran, Chicago - they sooo respect women's rights that they'd overlook her using a gun. If this was NYC, she'd be in 10x the trouble. Not defending Team Red, but its not the Red guys trying to crush self-defense in this counrty

  • Bilbo||

    Was Ike turner and Chris brown on the jury? Wtf!

  • TingoZing||

    Gotta jsut love the Kangaroo Court System, she should have jsut shot him dead!

    www.Privacy-Guys.tk

  • UvalDuvalCuckoo||

    OT but by any chance, are you related to Chingo Bling? I'm a big fan

  • ||

    Since anon-bot's musings get deleted, i am reposting cos today's is great:

    Gotta jsut love the Kangaroo Court System, she should have jsut shot him dead!
  • fish||

    Thanks hand it's perfectly clear now.

  • np||

    On March 16, after deliberating for 12 minutes, a jury convicted Alexander on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.


    .
    "She guilty."
    "Yep"
    ".. but going right back out looks suspicious"
    "Ok, 1 min for each of us."
    "Sounds good"

    Although she injured no one, she faces a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence unless she can win a new trial.


    I swear, the way to make sure this kind of shit doesn't happen--the way to practically guarantee it, is to 1) make juror duty voluntary; likely very high pay, specialist positions; or most cases decided by judges 2) overturn the law prohibiting the mention of jury nullification 3) make everyone, the judge, the prosecutor and the jurors, accountable. That means, if the case is successfully appealed they are penalized. And the penalties are greater if the case is overturned after she serves jail time, or for wrongful convictions in general; and even held accountable when laws used to convict are struck down later on (so yes, they'd need to speculate too). I think we'd end up with much faster defacto changes or undoing of some laws this way

  • Fre3d||

    Look at the defense in the immunity hearing. This isn't Stand Your Ground.

    You can't go get a gun and come back to confront the person. You can't point a gun at innocent children. And you can't go to the home you haven't lived in for 2 months, where the person you've taken out a protective order against lives, and stand your ground. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think she can legally contact this guy, so she wasn't in a place she was entitled to be.

    Plus, she fired a warning shot. This just isn't SYG, in my opinion, just from the facts in the immunity hearing, as I understand the law.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/8976.....to-Dismiss

  • niobiumstudio||

    Apparently you didn't read it either - it was HER HOUSE. The house was RENTED IN HER NAME. Meaning she had EVERY right to be there. If the legal protection order was valid (which I doubt since the husband was there), Mrs. Alexander's husband had no right to be there. You can't say she had no right to stand her ground when she was LAWFULLY ALLOWED TO BE THERE. It was her home, that SHE PAID RENT FOR, in her name - not his. According to Fl. case law, women ARE allowed to use deadly force to stop an attacking husband and SYG means she didn't have to retreat. Since the house was rented in HER name alone, her husband was trespassing once she asked him to leave.

  • ChrisO||

    If this doesn't get overturned on appeal, I'd say it would be a good candidate for a gubernatorial pardon. Hopefully, her counsel and supporters can get enough attention on this case to put pressure on the governor to do so.

  • Robert S||

    So she's...uhm.. single?

  • jacob||

    The night the lights went out in Florida

  • Ben Kalafut||

    There's no such thing as a "warning shot" unless you're on a ship in the coast guard. Where do people get the idea they're entitled to shoot one? Is this something they used to do on TV?

    That having been said, 20 years is excessive for either reckless discharge or, in this case, assault.

  • joy||

    If his sons hadn't been in the house, Gray said,
    http://www.nikewinkel.com/scho.....-c-40.html "I probably would have tried to take the gun from her," and "I probably would have put my hand on her."

  • Kratoklastes||

    Nice article, Mr Sullum, but there's little point in noting the specifics of the Flordia self-defence law when the defendant is black - the world understands very clearly that the US has a 2-track 'justice' system that makes it absolutely clear that Jim Crow still stalks the land.

    12 minutes to take away the bulk of the useful remaining life of a woman who was being maltreated? Even the Soviets made more of a show of due process.

    The sooner the US implodes and the world get to kick the shit out of it for two generations, the better: then, everybody who participates in the supply-side of tyranny best sleep with a loaded gun.

  • thirtyandseven||

    On March 16, after deliberating for 12 minutes, a jury convicted Alexander on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

    Fuck.

  • ||

    CAN you say insane totally insane

  • conlib707||

    This lady must have had the dumbest lawyer ever. To be convicted of that, as described by the article, in Florida no less is dumbfounded at best. Why was this even prosecuted? Must be more to this story... Remember the case where a woman shot her husband six times while he was sleeping emptying the revolver killing him. She was aquited by a jury because of claimed (fact and fiction) past abuse. I think that was in NC?

  • zamoracarl711||

    as Kim implied I didnt even know that people able to make $5085 in four weeks on the internet. did you see this page makecash16.cøm

  • lisa||

    terrible terrible setback for women and and had no idea that racism was so alive and still well in this country..thought we had turned the corner on this one. This guy was dangerous low scary menace to women and society and this woman all she did was fire a warning shot? and got a sentence like this?? This is not to be believed..she needs to appeal and get a great lawyer. I am so saddened that we are this deep back in our evolution here in America..this is not to believed Pray that she she gets an appeal

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