A Tampa, Fla. woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at her husband during a heated dispute will receive a new trial.
Marissa Alexander, 32, was sentenced in May 2012 in connection with an August 2010 incident involving her then-husband, Rico Gray Sr. According to ABC News, Alexander was sentenced under Florida statues which require a mandatory 20-year sentence for firing a weapon during the commission of a crime; MSNBC reported that a jury convicted Alexander after just 12 minutes of deliberation.
In a Sept. 26 decision, Judge James Daniel upheld a lower court’s refusal to grant Alexander protection under Florida’s contentious “Stand Your Ground” law, but ordered a new trial on the grounds that instructions given to the jury were not accurate.
“We reject her contention that the trial court erred in declining to grant her immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law,” Daniel wrote, according to MSNBC, “but we remand for a new trial because the jury instructions on self-defense were erroneous.”
According to ABC News, Alexander claimed an argument over the paternity of her then-one-week-old child escalated when Gray broke through the door of a bathroom where she had sought shelter and grabbed her by the neck. She fled to the home’s garage but could not escape, and instead retrieved a handgun she owned. When Gray confronted her again, Alexander claimed he threatened to kill her and charged at her, causing her to fire a warning shot into the garage ceiling.
According to Florida’s “10-20-Life” statutes, anyone who draws a gun during a crime receives a mandatory 10-year sentence. Firing a gun during the commission of a crime nets a mandatory 20-year sentence. Anyone convicted of shooting and killing another person during a crime is sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Alexander attempted to use Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law as her defense, a statute which took center stage in the trial of George Zimmerman. However, prosecutors—the same who unsuccessfully prosecuted Zimmerman, convinced the court that Alexander did not act in self-defense.
“The defendant's conviction was reversed on a legal technicality,” prosecutors wrote in a statement. “We are gratified that the court affirmed the defendant's Stand Your Ground ruling. This means the defendant will not have another Stand Your Ground hearing. The case will be back in the Circuit Court in the Fourth Judicial Circuit at the appropriate time."
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