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Thursday, February 16, 2023

The Marissa Alexander Stand Your Ground Assault Case

     Marissa Alexander, when she married Rico Gray in June 2010, was six months pregnant with their child. She had two children from a previous marriage and Gray had five with five other women. One of his sons, and two of Marissa's children, lived with them in their rented Jacksonville, Florida home. She was 30 and he was 35.

     Rico Gray had physically abused his former partners and was beating up Marissa. In July 2010 he had thrown his pregnant wife across the room then given her a black eye with a head butt. Marissa and her children moved out of the house and into her mother's place. She also filed for an order of protection against her husband.

     At the domestic violence injunction hearing, Rico Gray reportedly said this to the judge: "I got five baby mamas and I put my hand on every last one of them except one. The way I was with women, they was like they had to walk on eggshells around me. You know, they never knew what I was thinking...or what I might do...hit them, push them." The judge granted the order of protection.

     Marissa had the baby on July 23, 2010 and on August 1 returned to the rented house to gather up more of her clothes. While there she showed Gray a cellphone photograph of their baby. After she entered the bathroom Rico Gray looked through her cellphone and came across text messages she had sent to her former husband that suggested she planned to leave Mr. Gray permanently and get back with her ex-spouse. Enraged, Gray stormed into the bathroom and allegedly said, "If I can't have you, no one can." He put his hands on her throat, threw her against the door and threatened to kill her.

     Breaking free, Marissa ran into the attached garage and from her car grabbed her handgun. (It was licensed.) She returned to the house (She claimed she couldn't exit the dwelling through the garage because the automatic door opener didn't work) and encountered Gray standing in the kitchen next to his two sons. Fearing for her life, she (according to her account) fired a warning shot into the air. (Ballistics analysis, however, suggested that the bullet hit a wall and ricocheted up into the ceiling.)

     Rico Gray called 911. In reporting the shooting to the dispatcher he sounded more angry than frightened. A short time later the house was surrounded by a SWAT team. Marissa was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault. (Three counts because she had allegedly endangered three people.) Under Florida's so-called 10-20-life law, any person convicted of aggravated assault involving the discharge of a firearm was subject to a mandatory 20 year sentence.

     A few days after her arrest Marissa was released on bail under orders from the judge to stay clear of her husband. But four months later, Marissa, in violation of the judge's order, went back to the house and punched Gray in the face. She would later plead no contest to domestic battery.

     With the approach of Marissa's aggravated assault by handgun trial, prosecutor Angela Corey, explained to the defendant that if convicted she could be sentenced to 20 years. The prosecutor offered her a deal: if she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, the judge would sentence her to three years in prison. Marissa rejected the plea bargain offer.

     In defending Marissa Alexander her attorney planned to rely on Florida's "stand your ground" law that was in the news as a result of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin  murder case. (Angela Corey, the state's attorney in Marissa's case was the leading special prosecutor in the February 2012 Sanford, Florida shooting.) Under the "stand your ground" self-defense doctrine a person who is threatened with death or serious bodily injury in a place where he has a right to be has no duty under the law to retreat and can meet force with force.

     In a pre-trial hearing on the stand your ground issue, Judge James Daniel ruled that the law didn't apply to Marissa Alexander because she had no reason to fear for her life in that confrontation with her husband. The defendant could therefore not rely on self-defense and the stand your ground doctrine.

     On March 16, 2012 a jury found Alexander guilty of the three aggravated assault counts. The judge, bound by Florida's 10-20-life law, sentenced her to 20 years in prison.

     Critics of mandatory sentencing laws, along with anti-domestic violence advocates, expressed outrage over the outcome of the Marissa Alexander case. Other than winning an appeal, Marissa Alexander's only other legal remedy involved a grant of clemency by Florida Governor Rick Scott. For that to happen a member of the state clemency board would have to initiate the action. Marissa could only make application herself after she has served half of her sentence.

     In the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin murder trial, on July 13, 2013, the jury found defendant Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder. He was also acquitted of the lesser homicide offense of manslaughter. In this case the jury of six women found that because Zimmerman reasonably feared for his life during a fight with Trayvon Martin, the neighborhood watch leader was legally justified in standing his ground and eventually using deadly force against the 17-year-old. The jury had accepted the defense theory that at the time of his death the 17-year-old was on top of the defendant, banging his head against the sidewalk. Following the February 2012 shooting Mr. Zimmerman told police officers that he had been afraid the attacker would get control of his handgun.

     In 2013, an appeals court overturned Marissa Alexander's conviction on procedural grounds. The prosecutor immediately announced a second trial that was later scheduled for December 1, 2014. Marissa Alexander remained in custody pending the outcome of the second trial.

     On November 24, 2014, after spending 1,030 days behind bars, Marissa Alexander accepted a plea deal that consisted of two years probation during which time she would wear an electronic ankle bracelet. 


  1. Absolutely insane. This is ridiculous. I lived 11 years of abuse, afraid to stay, afraid to live. I have a MA and a teaching credential, human fear knows no boundaries; poor, rich, educated, uneducated, women are stuck between love and fear in so many relationships. For this kind of punishment, she should have sent him to his resting place.

  2. If you read only her family and lawyers' press releases (conveniently released right after the Zimmerman verdict), you get a different picture than if you know all of the facts of the case. The judge, after "weighing the credibility of all witnesses and other evidence," denied her SYG motion.

    She claimed SYG because she was trapped by a "mechanical failure" of the garage door that worked when she parked the night before and worked when police tested it afterward the incident. Either we live in a world of self-repairing garage doors or garage-door fairies or she lied under oath .

    Four months after the incident, she violated a restraining order when she was so afraid off him that she needed a gun to protect herself from him, she went to his house alone and unarmed and punched him in the head.

    She lied about that incident, saying that she wasn't there and had an alibi. When she couldn't produce an alibi, she changed her story and admitted to being there.

    Her bail was revoked because of that and because she, the defendant and he, the victim, illegally discussed his testimony. He changed his story after that.

    Here's the Court document: http://www.scribd.com/doc/89763280/Order-Denying-Defendants-Motion-for-Immunity-and-Motion-to-Dismiss

  3. volumes of mitigating and exculpatory evidence were withheld from the jury. Rico had tried to frame two different partners previously. Not admissible. Rico had beaten Marissa into the hospital previously. Not admissible. Rico had a long history of violence against women. Not admissible. Rico had a restraining order against him and if he had obeyed it none of this would have happened. Not admissible. Rico's testimony was purchased by the prosecution by not trying him for violating the restraining order Marissa had against him. Not admissible. All of the abuser turned accuser's prior baby mommas had lived in terror of his man. Not admissible. Marissa was an excellent shot and could have riddled him with bullets. Not introduced. Marissa most likely was suffering from post partum depression, traumatic brain injury, and or post traumatic stress disorder. Not introduced. No one can blame this jury. All of the blame lies with the prosecutor, the judge and their hero the abuser turned accuser

    Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2013/07/29/the-problem-with-if-zimmerman-were-black/#ixzz2b7ZzHE9K

  4. The garage door actually did not work. Rico was probably pushing down on the other button while chuckling to himself. Here are 11 more reasons it may not have worked: http://voices.yahoo.com/12-troubleshooting-steps-malfunctioning-electric-6800494.html?cat=6
    No expert testimony was introduced about the garage door.

  5. It's sad because people with these personalities lean towards each other and this chaos is created. The children are left in the middle and the chaos is continued. Why people tend to go toward abusers over and over again and why abusers seek out these weakened people is beyond me. It's sick.