Florida Woman Marissa Alexander Who Fired Warning Shot Gets New Trial Instead of 20 Years Prison

From USA Today, update on a story of a non-lethal defensive gun use that led to 20 years in prison that struck many as a less than just outcome:

Steve Rhodes / Foter / CC BY-NC-NDSteve Rhodes / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

A Florida appeals court is ordering a new trial for a woman sentenced to 20 years to prison after she fired a warning shot in a wall during a dispute with her husband.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that a judge did not properly instruct the jury handling the case of Marissa Alexander.

But the appeals court did also state that the judge was right to block Alexander from using the state's "Stand Your Ground" law as a way to defend her actions. 

Slate has more details on the nature of the improper jury instruction:

Judge James H. Daniel ordered a retrial, arguing that Alexander had been held to too high a standard to prove self-defense. "The defendant’s burden is only to raise a reasonable doubt concerning self-defense," he wrote...."The defendant does not have the burden to prove the victim guilty of the aggression defended against beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jacob Sullum wrote about this for us back in May. He wrote about the details behind Alexander's decision to fire a gun:

[Rico] 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.

Certainly given that Ms. Alexander harmed no one, the original sentence—mandated by mandatory minimum laws for "aggravated assault with a deadly weapon"—seems excessive.

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  • Cliché Bandit||

    sooo...is Florida man her ex?

  • Paul.||

    Pro Libertate is Florida Man. Got a big 'F' on his spandex suit.

  • Pro Libertate||

    This may or may not be accurate.

  • Rrabbit||

    The big 'F' on the spandex suit is part of the word Fuck?

  • Pro Libertate||

    While I don't own a spandex suit, I do own a dragon kimono a Japanese woman talked me into buying in Tokyo.

  • Libertymike||

    What else did she talk you into doing?

    [Twenty] seventh of September,
    Remember when,
    We met at the shrine,
    Your kimono looked so fine,
    Temple dancers swaying,
    Flutes playing then,
    I was yours and you were mine,
    Paul Desmond on the stereo,
    We sipped the sake very slow,
    Kissing in the candle glow,
    That rainy night in Tokyo
    ........................

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, it wasn't like that. She was just a sales lady who told me a big manly American like me needed a dragon kimono. Some sort of spooky Asian moment, because it somehow worked.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    So will all the Bluetards on my Facebook now please SHUT THE FUCK UP about this (completely irrelevant to Zimmermand and/or race relations) case now?! Thank Christ.

  • Libertymike||

    They should just shut up, period.

    But, aren't you pleased with the court's decision?

  • Lord Peter Wimsey||

    But...both cases have a black person...and a gun...so they must be...the same!

    And both case just show that team blue is right about everything!

  • Spartacus||

    Well, they do have something in common.

  • ||

    I have just discovered that there is no PC version of GTA V, and possibly never will be (though I doubt that as they would be depriving themselves of even more insane profit). I'm going to go smash something now.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    That sound you hear is Cytotoxic leaving a handprint on your ass.

  • ||

    It stings!

  • Paul.||

    that's not his ass.

  • Paul.||

    PC gamers are [...]

  • ||

    I'm so literally angry with rage that I think I might have to get stoned and download Saint's Row IV. I've been pushed that far.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    That's only temporary relief.

  • ||

    I realize that, but I want my relief. 82% downloaded!

  • Paul.||

    I repeat myself, but hitting people with 3' dildos? I just don't get it.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Paul won't hit anyone with a dildo less than 4' long.

  • Paul.||

    that's not a dildo.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I don't either, that's why I never used that weapon and stuck to the superpowers instead.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Why in the hell would you want a politically correct version of a game about stealing cars and causing mayhem?

    -jcr

  • Paul.||

    Oh, and you call it a warning shot, I call it poor marksmanship.

  • JD the elder||

    Before you make up your mind about this case, read everything you can. It's way less clear-cut than the media (even Reason) makes it sound. Among other things, both Alexander and Gray changed their stories repeatedly.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I think she shot at him intending to hit him and missed. I think he was coming for her to beat on her and/or kill her.

    I think trash is gonna trash, and then progs are going to lift them* up as downtrodden when they act this way.

    * - I have no idea what the races of the participants are, nor do I care.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    If neither side has a consistent story, then there is no story, and that qualifies as reasonable doubt. My mind's made up about this case.

  • Sigivald||

    This is why you don't do "warning shots" (and indeed the reporting makes it unclear that it was one, rather than just missing).

    If it warrants deadly force, it warrants actually using deadly force - and if the reporting is accurate on the content, deadly force was warranted.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    It wasn't warranted, actually, because she went back and escalated the confrontation. I'm not buying that bullshit about the garage door either.

    http://www.hlntv.com/article/2.....-life-laws

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

  • Libertymike||

    Yeah, for a minute, I thought you may have forgotten what you had previously posted on this topic.

  • sarcasmic||

    Reads to me like she was convicted not because she was proven guilty, but because she failed to prove her innocence.

  • ||

    It is my understanding that self-defense is an affirmative defense: she does have to prove that she acted in self-defense.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I think that's the old rule, but I believe it's been changed in most of the country to the more sensible rule of having the prosecution prove *all* of its case.

  • ||

    The prosecution has to prove that she fired a shot and with that she committed the criminal act of "aggravated assault with a deadly weapon". The jury (finders of facts) thought that the prosecution proved that case, and Alexander's defense failed to prove her case, i.e. that although she fired the shot, it wasn't a criminal act because she did it in self-defense.

    I don't think that the argument of self-defense serves as a way of creating reasonable doubt: rather it serves as a defense against finding the -- otherwise criminal -- overt act criminal. She wasn't claiming that she did not fire the shot, or that she lacked the requisite intent to fire the shot: her case was that she was justified in firing the shot, as she did it in order to defend herself. And she does have to "make that case"; she has to prove it to the jury's satisfaction that such was the case. If she fails to prove her case, the jury is left with the finding that she committed the overt act -- without legal justification or excuse.

    Or so I think; IANAL.

  • ||

    Or so I think; IANAL.

    And I thought wrongly; only in Ohio has the defense of the burden of proof on self-defense.

    Mr. van Haalen was right, I was wrong.

  • SweatingGin||

    Neoteny: do you have any references on Ohio/self defense?

    That's interesting - I would have expected NY or NJ or something. I remember OH had some really weird carry laws right after they allowed CPL. You could carry concealed most places, but had to carry openly in cars.

  • ||

    From the LegalInsurrection link further down:

    (The exception to this is Ohio, in which the defendant retains the burden of persuasion on each element of self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence.)

  • Calidissident||

    From my casual following of the Zimmerman case, it didn't seem like it works that way in Florida; I didn't get the impression that Zimmerman had to prove he shot Martin in self-defense

  • sarcasmic||

    How do you prove that? For example if someone twice your size is charging you, threatening to kill you, you shoot and miss, then they back off, how can any of that be proved?* You've got a smoking gun, a hole in the wall, and one person's word against that of another. How do you prove anything?

    *not saying that's what happened in this case

  • Libertymike||

    That is one reason why no charges should have been filed against her.

  • ||

    Because the she-said-he-said? Then the majority of rape (sexual assault) cases shouldn't be charged.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I say you rape goats and children, sometimes at the same time.

    Let's let a fact finding jury of your peers sort this out. I'm sure if you're innocent your name will be cleared and you'll be able to go on living like you have been.

  • ||

    I say you rape goats and children, sometimes at the same time.

    I have an easy defense against the latter accusation: I possess only one phallus.

    "Let's let a fact finding jury of your peers sort this out."

    Are you unhappy with the adversarial system, and that juries make findings of facts? I think it's still better than the Continental inquisitional system where judges (sometimes sitting with laypersons) make the determination regarding what happened. Of course neither system is perfect and both system produces appalling cases of miscarriage of justice.

  • Jordan||

    If true, then yes.

  • ||

    How do you prove anything?

    Good question: by convincing the finder of fact (usually the jury, the judge when s/he sits alone) regarding what went down.

  • XM||

    There are plenty of fights in which the participants shout something like "I'm going to kill you (expletive)". You probably need more than that to use self defense.

  • sarcasmic||

    That's why I added "twice your size and charging at you."

    derp

  • SweatingGin||

    Self defense is a matter of "would a reasonable person fear for their life?"

    She probably did have a reasonable fear for her life.

    The big problem for her was going out to the garage, getting the gun, and coming back in.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    She may be guilty as the day is long, but her prosecutor was Angela Corey, and my only regret is that Angela doesn't meet the same end as Giles -

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G.....d_to_death

    Then again, she doesn't have the balls to do what Giles did, and she wouldn't deserve so honorable a martyrdom.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    Hai Gaiz I guess we can all relax now.

    The International Olympic Committee doesn't have the authority to intervene in Russia's law banning gay propaganda and is convinced there will be no discrimination against athletes or spectators at the Winter Games in Sochi, a top Olympic official said Thursday.
  • ||

    Bahaha, trusting Russia to behave any way that they don't feel like seems foolish.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Slappy, don't you have better things to do with your time?

  • ||

    Speaking for myself, I dont commonly discuss the racial aspect of situations for which race has no relevance.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    What in the hell are you talking about.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    Oh Achewood...

  • SweatingGin||

    WTF did I just read?

  • ||

    +?

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's nice that a dig at libertarians lives in a comic composed entirely of batshit insane non sequiturs.

  • Peter Bleswick||

    If anyone's interested in a lawyer-type analysis of this, Andrew Branca has a long post on it up at Legal Insurrection:
    http://legalinsurrection.com/2.....ense-case/

    And people not clear on the facts of the original case should brush up with Sean Davis's piece from last year (also linked above), "No, Marissa Alexander’s Conviction Was Not a 'Reverse Trayvon Martin' Case in Florida"
    http://mediatrackers.org/flori.....in-florida

    The facts aren't exactly as the "Justice 4 Marissa" activists are claiming.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    But...but...they used a clever substitution of "4" for "for!" And they have picket signs and everything! But I bet you'll mansplain something about evidence or some such crap.

  • SweatingGin||

    Older Ginlette (kindergarten), while trying to avoid getting ready for bed just did the pledge of allegiance on her own.

    Time to get her away from the public school.

  • ||

    She is a creative one.

  • SweatingGin||

    Yes she is. Creative ways to make daddy drink more.

  • ||

    We pledged allegiance to the Christian flag AND the US flag. Good luck!

    I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Was this at an all-boys school by chance?

  • SweatingGin||

    Wowza. That's an entirely different world than I encountered in those times.

    She's pretty independent.

  • ||

    Yikes. Where did you go to school? Thats creepy.

  • ||

    Not an all boys school. Though my folks belong to a Foursquare church (Pentacostal minus the snakes) we went to a mainline Lutheran elementary and middle school. The pledge to the Christian flag is an established thing, it wasn't just the school that did it.

  • hotsy totsy||

    A Christian flag? Come on! Never heard of it. Does the pope know about this?

    After all, he heads up the majority of Christians in the world.

  • Drake||

    Will Joe Biden testify?

  • Azathoth!!||

    12 minutes. That's how long the jury was out. 12 minutes. One minute per juror.

    You don't get that kinda thing unless there's massive bias......or the prosecution's case was a slam dunk.

    But I bet with the new trial she's found not guilty....because Florida feels guilty that they didn't hang Zimmerman.

  • Enough About Palin||

    "Antifungal Cream Discovered to Eradicate HIV"

    Does this mean I can start fucking monkeys again?

  • Jess Allen||

    this sentence wasn't just "excessive". it was balls-out totally INSANE, RACIST, AND FUCKING BIZARRE. Ms. Alexander should have been given a pat on the back of congrats, not ANY sentence at all. if her case was a crime at all, then the law is wrong, flat out wrong. but somehow i have a sneaking suspicion that if it had been that she was a WHITE WOMAN well oh no.... i am CERTAIN that this NEVER would have been considered a crime at all in the 1st place...

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