In Florida, Not All ‘Stand Your Ground’ Defendants Are Created Equal
Outrage over George Zimmerman’s acquittal has continued this week, especially after Rev. Jesse Jackson called the public’s attention to another “stand your ground” case that he called a “travesty” of justice.
Statistics compiled by the Tampa Bay Times, with the help of the conservative blog the Daily Caller, found that Black defendants in Florida appear to be more successful than Whites when it comes to successfully using the “stand your ground” law as a defense. According to the report, one-third of the successful claims were made by Black defendants.
However, a report from The Atlantic came to a conflicting conclusion — killing a person of color was more likely to lead to a justified use of the law than killing a White person.
Traveling to Florida this week, Jackson spotlighted the case of Marissa Alexander, a 32-year-old mother of three, who was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years in jail after the Black woman fired a warning shot into the wall of her home in 2010.
Alexander says she fired the shot to end a violent argument she was having with her abusive husband. As reported in the Daily Beast, the incident occurred in July 2010, when Alexander’s husband Rico Gray found text messages on her phone and confronted her.
In his deposition, Gray said he was mad about the messages and told Alexander, “If I can’t have you nobody going to have you.”
Alexander reportedly tried to leave the bathroom, but Gray stopped her.
“I met her where the sink was, and she wanted to get by me and I wouldn’t let her by and I was backing up slow but I was using my body to pretty much contain her in that one area where I want her to be at. [S]he got the bathroom door closed and she locked it, so I were beating on it. [I] was there waiting for her to come out of the bathroom,” he said.
“I was in a rage. I was in a rage, so I was saying a lot of things,” he said. “I beat on the door hard enough where it could have been broken open. Probably has some dents. I was mad, you know … I called her a whore and a bitch.”
Gray said Alexander went into the garage after leaving the bathroom, but because the garage door was locked, he knew she wouldn’t be able to leave.
“She came back through the doors and she had a gun [from her car]. And she said, ‘You need to leave.’ I told her, I ain’t leaving until you talk to me … and I started walking towards her and she shot in the air,” he said.
No one was shot, injured or killed, and Alexander did not have a criminal record.
Still, Alexander is behind bars and has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, while Zimmerman — who has a criminal record for battery of a police officer, a restraining order for domestic abuse, and killed Martin — will spend no time behind bars.
“In one case Mr. Zimmerman kills a young man and walks away, free to kill again,” Jackson said. “And Marissa shot no one, hurt no one, and she’s in jail for 20 years.”
Jackson added that the “radical polarization in the judicial system” was cause for great concern.
Talking to the Daily Beast, Alexander’s lawyer said, “When a woman or minority is claiming they are defending themselves, they don’t get the benefit of the doubt.”
“Most battered women who kill in self-defense end up in prison. There is a well-documented bias against women [in these cases],” said Rita Smith, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
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