Monday, July 15, 2013

Injustice: why aren't people talking about Marissa Alexander?

The national media focused their efforts on reporting the end of the George Zimmerman trial this past weekend as if no other story had any of the compelling pieces of the death of Trayvon Martin.  Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter, setting off waves of angry protests around the nation.  However, the verdict shouldn't be all that shocking.  The prosecution's case was weak, lacking any hard evidence, and reasonable doubt existed.  There's a difference between a not guilty verdict and declaring someone innocent.  But nevermind that now.

The large number of people protesting the verdict in the Zimmerman case should perhaps turn their attention to a real travesty in our judicial system.  If you haven't heard of Marissa Alexander, let me familiarize you with her situation.

In August of 2010, Alexander's husband, Rico Gray attempted to strangle her after an argument.  Alexander escaped from him and fled to the garage.  She retrieved her gun from her car and pointed it at her husband, who threatened to kill her.  Fearing for her life, Alexander fired a single warning shot, which caused her husband to leave the home.  The one bullet she fired did not hit anyone, lodging in the wall. 

Authorities charged Alexander with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  The fact that this woman was even arrested is beyond ridiculous.  She already had a restraining order against her husband, and Gray admitted to a history of physical abuse against his wife.

In a sworn desposition, Gray stated about his wife, "I told her if she ever cheated on me, I would kill her."  About the night in question, Gray stated, "If my kids weren't there ... I would have tried to take the gun from her ... probably hit her. I got five baby mammas and I put my hands on every last one of them except for one."  Two of those woman “got hit in the mouth” by Gray because in his own words, they “just wouldn’t shut up.”

Alexander's attorney maintained his client was justified in firing her gun because of Florida's much talked about "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows citizens to use force when reasonable belief of unlawful conduct exists.  From the sound of this particular case, I believe Alexander was more than justified in firing a single warning shot to prevent her estranged husband from beating, and potentially killing her. 

Prosecuting attorneys offered Alexander a plea bargain, where she would have to accept a three year prison sentence.  Believing in her right to self-defense, Alexander declined to accept the agreement, and the issue went to trial, where a jury needed all of 12 minutes to convict her -- 12 minutes!  To complicate matters more, Florida has a sentencing system known as "10-20-Life" involving felonies perpetrated with guns.

To combat the high levels of gun crime in Florida, the state created 10-20-Life to dissuade any would-be criminals.  The state statute lists 18 different felonies that, if committed with the mere possession of a gun, require a mandatory 10 year prison term.  If during the commission of one of those felonies, a gun is discharged, the mandatory sentence is 20 years.  If a person is shot or killed during one of those crimes, the mimimum sentence is 25 years to life imprisonment.

Marissa Alexander's conviction, according to the state of Florida, requires a 20 year sentence.  This is unacceptable to incarcerate a human being for protecting her own well-being from a man with a history of abuse directed at her.  It ought to offend the conscience of every human being. 

Alexander's terrible ordeal has left several questions for us to consider.

First, why is this case not receiving more attention than the Zimmerman case?  The newshounds at CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc. spent the entire Saturday pouring over the same details of the Zimmerman case and waiting for the jury to return a verdict, and yet the amount of time dedicated to Alexander's case is minimal by comparison.  Her story is more compelling, and the justification more convincing.  But this leads to my next question.

Does race play a part in what happened to Alexander?  I wish the answer was no, but the fact that this woman is black can't be avoided.  According to the statistics, 12% of American citizens are black, yet according to FBI crime statistics, 28% of all criminal charges were levied against black Americans.  Moreover, incarceration rates by race bear out a significant discrepancy in application of the law:  for black Americans, 2,207 out of every 100,000 are incarcerated.  Compare that number to 380 out of every 100,000 white Americans.  I don't understand this phenomenon but considering the proportionality of population versus incarceration rates.

Is every black man or woman charged with a crime somehow railroaded into prison?  Of course not, but this is ridiculous.  Incidentally, Alexander had no criminal record prior to this incident.

What is the point in having a gun if you can't lawfully use it?  This case is precisely why I hesitate in ever owning or carrying a firearm.  Sadly, Americans no longer have a right to defend themselves from harm.  Marissa Alexander was outweighed by her husband by nearly 100 pounds, and society expects her to do what?  Take a beating? 

Are there other pieces to the story not being widely told?  Yes, Alexander's two sons were in the house when she fired a gun at her husband.  Yes, she said to her husband during the encounter, "I've got something for you."  Yes, during the trial and while on bond, she confronted her husband against a judge's direct orders.  Yes, she gave her husband a black eye during that confrontation.

Does the result of the case equate to justice?  Absolutely not.  For Marissa Alexander to spend the next 20 years in prison is egregious.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, the question should be, "Why are people ignoring the totality of evidence in the Alexander case and only seeing the press-release information that her family and lawyers' conveniently released right later the Zimmerman verdict when people would be angry?"

    If you read only her family and lawyers' press releases (conveniently released right after the Zimmerman verdict), you get a different picture than if you know all of the facts of the case. The judge, after "weighing the credibility of all witnesses and other evidence," denied her SYG motion.

    She claimed SYG because she was trapped by a "mechanical failure" of the garage door that worked when she parked the night before and worked when police tested it afterward the incident. Either we live in a world of self-repairing garage doors or garage-door fairies or she lied under oath .

    Four months after the incident, she violated a restraining order when she was so afraid off him that she needed a gun to protect herself from him, she went to his house alone and unarmed and punched him in the head.

    She lied about that incident, saying that she wasn't there and had an alibi. When she couldn't produce an alibi, she changed her story and admitted to being there.

    Her bail was revoked because of that and because she, the defendant and he, the victim, illegally discussed his testimony. He changed his story after that.

    Here's the Court document: