A Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for firing a warning gunshot at her attacking husband and whose "stand your ground" defense was rejected by a jury will get a new chance to defend herself with a new trial.
Marissa Alexander was convicted by a jury in just 12 minutes back in 2012, but her case gained new prominence earlier this year after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the successful self-defense argument used by George Zimmerman. While Zimmerman was found not guilty for following and shooting Martin, Alexander received 20 years despite not actually hurting her husband. Alexander's plight was seen as evidence of a racial double standard in regard to "stand your ground" laws by critics of the Zimmerman decision, according to a local NAACP chapter president. Isaiah Rumlin said in April of this year that, "The law is applied differently between African-Americans and whites who are involved in these types of cases." Statistics on successful and unsuccessful uses of "stand your ground" defenses support his argument.
Despite her legal victory today, don't expect this trial to completely reverse that double standard. While Alexander will get a new trial, it will be because of faulty jury instructions, not because of a reconsideration of her "stand your ground" pleas. In granting the re-trial, Judge James H. Daniel wrote, "We reject her contention that the trial court erred in declining to grant her immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law,” he explained and upheld the jury's original finding. She will still be able to claim self-defense, and might get a more sympathetic jury this time. Another hearing will be held to determine if she can be released on bail, pending the re-trial.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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