I am still outraged that George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. I am suspect of Florida's Stand Your Ground Laws. I am convinced that mandatory sentencing guidelines are overly harsh in most cases and affect black folk and other minorities disproportionately. And while I reeled from the news of Zimmerman's acquittal, I was hit in the gut again by the news that Marissa Alexander faced decades in jail as she defended herself from an abusive mate. Her defense rested on the controversial Stand Your Ground Law after she fired a warning shot near or at her abusive husband. Marissa claims she was protecting herself from another attack at the hands of her man. She "stood her ground". Instead of Justice, Marissa was sentenced to 20 years in prison, igniting a firestorm of objection and protest across the country, particularly from black Americans still reeling from the Zimmerman verdict.
The anger I felt as this woman's picture was showing up time and again in my social media timelines, usually accompanied by the headline or status update that all she was doing was defending herself against an abusive male. I saw images of an innocent mother. That's somebody's sister.... another innocent sista trapped in an abusive relationship... There are so may stories like this in our community, I was thinking.... I was like dag.. yet another brotha beatin down his woman.... I have sympathy for Marissa.... Compassion. I joined in the voices that said "INJUSTICE!! DISCRIMINATION!!! UNFAIR!!! Yes. On the surface, it appears that Marissa would be yet another black person unjustly consumed by the court system in America. A fact made worse because the case is in Florida.
Then I began to seek the facts. Facts that reveal why Marissa's Stand Your Ground defense was turned away at pre-trial hearings. Facts that also demonstrate why Marissa was convicted on multiple charges and sentenced to a mandatory 20 years. After only 12 minutes of deliberation, the jury convicted Marissa of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. (Click here to read the actual court documents) So then what happened?? How did we get to this point???
(Note: As of June 10, a retrial was postponed to December, while the state learns if the New Warning Shot bill will be passed or not)
On July 31, 2010, Marissa left her newborn child in the hospital days after giving birth to visit the home of Rico Gray, her husband. The couple had gotten married in May, but Marissa had not lived with Rico for two months prior to the shooting incident. When she got there, Rico wasn't home so she parked her car in the garage and waited. She spent the night but Rico did not come home until the morning along with his two sons. Sounds like everything is cool, because they all sat down and had breakfast. Everything is great. But then Marissa gave her phone to Rico so he could see pics of their newborn who was still in the hospital. She gave him the phone and then got up to go to the restroom. Rico found text message conversations between Marissa and her Ex. Rico got mad and confronted her as to whether the baby was even his. You know that set it off, right? And so it was on.... Rico prevented Marissa from leaving the bathroom at first, but she managed to get around him and exited. According to experts, this is where the Stand Your Ground laws went awry.
Marissa's actions at this point made the difference. Marissa exited the restroom and went to the master bedroom. Rico left the bedroom and headed to the living room. His sons were there. Marissa then leaves the bedroom, walks past Rico and the kids, straight to her car where she got a gun from her glovebox. She came back into the kitchen and pointed it at all three(Rico and his two sons). Rico put his hands in the air but Marissa fired anyway nearly missing Rico's head and sending a bullet through the kitchen and into the ceiling of the living room..... dayum!!!! Rico got the heck outta there with his sons and called 911. Marissa stayed at the house but never did call 911. It should be noted here that Rico did have a history of abuse against Marissa and other chicks. One such incident sent Marissa to the hospital with head injuries after he shoved her into a bathtub. In the following legal actions, they decide to depose Rico. And wouldn't you know it.. the couple is now conspiring to keep the laws out of their business. Rico said he had all but threatened to kill Marissa. He said she couldn't leave the house through the garage because it was broken and that she never pointed a gun at him or his kids. But that was a completely different account than what he gave to the cops. Then, after swearing in court that she would have no contact with Rico, she continued to see him. In fact, when the court dismissed Marissa's Stand Your Ground defense, the judge noted that not only did Marissa continue to see Rico even after swearing not to, Rico and her discussed what Rico should say during the deposition!!!! Shady...
Rico says he lied in his deposition to protect Marissa. Further, after Marissa was convicted and sentenced to 20 years, she requested a retrial. At that hearing, Rico said he never threatened to kill her and said he begged and pleaded for his life when she had the gun. To make things worse, while she was out on bail and awaiting trial from the shooting charges, Marissa was arrested for domestic battery against Rico. Apparently she came to drop off their child at the house and they started arguing because he would not allow her to stay overnight. Police were called but Marissa had fled the scene. But not before she left Rico with a swoll eye and bloodied. Po- Po caught up with Marissa about an hour later and of course Marissa claimed to not know what "this was all about" - she had an alibi. But as he police kept questioning her, the story changed with Marissa claiming that in fact she had gone to Rico's house but he attacked her with his fists because she wouldn't stay overnight. But Marissa had no visible injuries....Marissa was arrested and her bail revoked.
Needless to say, Marissa's case has a lot of issues. She had choices when she felt she was in "life threatening danger" - leave through the front door, back door or garage. She stayed in the house and although she and Rico said the garage was broken, police were not able to confirm.
Marissa says it was only a warning shot, but she shot at Rico, nearly missing him. The fact that she shot at him and did not hit him in the body presents the argument that she wasn't trying to kill him so why fire at all.
She was never in life threatening danger. She never called the police. If she was in fear for her life, she should have dialed 911.
She kept returning to the house even after the court ordered her not to. She did not fear Rico as she had previously claimed.
The last arrest for Domestic violence while she was out on bail coupled with the fact that she lied to police about even being there demonstrates that she was not in fear of her life.....
In the end, this case is sad. It is the story of a tragic and, in my opinion trifling couple with severe anger issues. Marissa clearly has issues within this relationship. Rico clearly has violence issues. But they keep seeing each other... They keep trying to protect one another... Their relationship is a messy mess and now Marissa will have to do major time for her actions. The pictures we see put together with the status sentences and twitter updates present an entirely different picture of this woman. We are led to say poor Marissa.... but in fact, this relationship was a mess. Clearly Marissa is not some helpless victim of domestic violence. They maintained a messy, violent relationship. Abusers of one another. They need mental health and anger management counseling... not a harsh prison sentence....
Now I am not saying the sentence isn't too harsh. I am all for seeking justice where injustice has been applied. I am saying that I need to sit this one out and see how it shakes out. I am saying that besides whatever the courts are going to do with Marissa, this couple needs mental health and anger management treatment. This dysfunctional relationship has caused a world of pain.
Marissa Alexander. A symbol of American injustice? not so fast is what I say.... I wish her luck.... It's all unfortunate. But this one? Not so fast.....