Marissa Danielle Alexander, 31, was charged with aggravated assault in August 2010 after she fired a single shot into the ceiling of her home during a domestic violence dispute. She claimed self-defense against an abusive husband under the state’s Stand Your Ground law. A judge denied her immunity in a Stand Your Ground hearing and after a jury found her guilty, she faces 20 years in prison.
Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, 36, was arrested both in 2006 and 2009 on charges of domestic battery. Charges were dropped in one case and he was given probation in the other. Alexander had an injunction for protection against domestic violence against Gray following his latest arrest.
Several months later, Alexander was arrested on the domestic battery charge involving her husband. She has maintained that Gray was the aggressor, becoming enraged when she told him she was leaving him. “He assaulted me, shoving, straggling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing all while I begged him to leave,” Alexander wrote in a blog posted by her first husband on a website set up in support of her.
In the post, Alexander wrote the attack began while she was using the restroom. She said she made it to the garage but couldn’t leave when she realized she didn’t have her keys and the garage door was not working. She said she then grabbed her gun, for which she said she has a concealed weapons permit, with her fear heightened by her husband’s history of abusing women, including her. She said she went back inside the kitchen where her husband threatened her life. “I was terrified from the first encounter and feared he came to do as he threatened,” she wrote. That’s when she said Gray “charged” at her. “In fear and a desperate attempt, I lifted my weapon up, turned away and discharged a single shot in the wall up the ceiling.”
Alexander wrote that the law states that she had no duty to retreat, but a jury found her guilty as charged March 16. Lincoln Alexander, who is Alexander’s first husband of eight years, has been involved with the case from the beginning. Alexander said he has witnessed signs of abuse and described Alexander’s accounts of the multiple beatings she took from Gray, including one that left her with a black eye when she was eight months pregnant. According to Alexander, his ex-wife was also hospitalized for her injuries the night of her domestic battery arrest. He said he had never had any domestic issues in his marriage with her.
This Florida mother who tried to defend herself from an abusive husband is facing 20 years in jail, despite the state’s now-famous ’Stand Your Ground’ law. In a 2010 deposition, Gray admitted to ”four or five” previous incidents of domestic violence involving Alexander. Describing one of those incidents, which resulted in Alexander going to the hospital, he said, “We was staying together and I pushed her back and she fell in the bathtub and hit her head.” An ex-partner of Gary’s, Chartrissia Anderson, who has a 9-year-old daughter with him, has also come forward to describe the violence she suffered at Gray’s hands.
This is how Alexander –- who had just given birth nine days before the incident — described being shoved, strangled and held against her will on that August 2010 night, per the blog set up by her first husband, Lincoln Alexander, on her behalf:
He and my two stepsons were supposed to be exiting the house thru the front door, but he didn’t leave. Instead he came into the kitchen that leads to the garage and realized I was unable to leave. Instead of leaving thru the front door where his vehicle was parked outside of the garage, he came into the kitchen by himself. I was terrified from the first encounter and feared he came to do as he had threatened. The weapon was in my right hand down by my side and he yelled, “B*** I will kill you!”, and charged toward me. In fear and desperate attempt, I lifted my weapon up, turned away and discharged a single shot in the wall up in the ceiling. As I stood my ground it prevented him from doing what he threatened and he ran out of the home. Outside of the home, he contacted the police and falsely reported that I shot at him and his sons [from a previous relationship]. The police arrived and I was taken into custody.
“I believe when he threatened to kill me, that’s what he was absolutely going to do. That’s what he intended to do. Had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.” Four months after her arrest, a judge rejected Alexander’s attempt to seek immunity under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, saying that she could have escaped her husband ”through the front or back door.” In March, a jury took just 12 minutes to return a guilty verdict against Alexander for three counts of aggravated assault. Last week a judge denied Alexander’s request for a new trial; she is set to be sentenced on May 11 where under Florida mandatory sentencing law, she faces a 20 year sentence.
So why doesn’t the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law apply to her?Instead, argued Melissa Harris-Perry on Sunday, “this is the rule of what occurs for women and for men who are in situations of domestic violence” — that the law will not protect them if they defend themselves from abusers. She spoke to Brooklyn Law School professor Liz Schneider, who said:
“I’m a lawyer and a law professor and since the 1970s. I’ve worked on cases and written about problems of cases involving self-defense, involving battered women that either kill or assault, and these are terrible cases. And there are cases in which women often serve a very long period of time. They are convicted by juries or sent to prison for long terms by judges.”
“The kinds of understandings that judges and juries bring show a lack of understanding of the history of abuse, a lack of sensitivity to women who have experienced abuse, and a sense that these women cannot be reasonable, which is a critical facet of what the self-defense laws require. And so you see [cases like Alexander's] not only I want to say sadly in this country, but I’ve also worked on cases around the globe, you see this around the world.”
Harris-Perry asked Kim Dadou, a domestic violence survivor who served 17 years in a New York state prison for shooting her abusive boyfriend to death — and is now with the Correctional Association of New York, fighting for a new bill to help incarcerated survivors of domestic violence — “why is the victim blamed in a domestic violence situation?”
“It’s bullying within the home,” Dadou said. “There’s a big outcry against bullying, but that’s what domestic violence is. [People ask] ‘why didn’t you leave?’ I was reading on Marissa’s case and it says that they said she should have left through the front door or through the back door and not the garage.”
“Well, you know what? I say to those people, I am so glad you’ve never known that kind of fear that paralyzes you, or that kind of fear or that kind of danger that prevents you from going out the front door or the back door, and you’re trapped within your own home. and how — how can you blame the victim?”
“You don’t blame a rape victim for being raped because she had on tight jeans. Why do you blame a domestic violence victim for staying in her own home? You’re re-victimizing the victim.”
- Judge denies Jacksonville woman new trial despite ‘Stand Your Ground’ claim (jacksonville.com)
- Where Was ‘Stand Your Ground’ for Marissa Alexander? (ideas.time.com)
- 20 Years for Standing Her Ground Against a Violent Husband (reason.com)
- Abused Wife ‘Stands Her Ground,’ Faces 20 Year Prison Sentence (mymajicdc.com)
- Supporters to rally for local mom on trial (news4jax.com)