Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman's Sentence Brings out Divisions; Marissa Alexander Raised Stand Your Ground Law, Gets 20 Years; Rep. Brown Confronts Prosecutor

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman's Sentence Brings out Divisions; Marissa Alexander Raised Stand Your Ground Law, Gets 20 Years; Rep. Brown Confronts Prosecutor

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles Broward

As expected, a judge sentenced Marissa Alexander to a state-mandated term of 20 years in prison Friday despite her claim she had no choice but to stand her ground against an abusive husband.

What wasn't expected was a musical protest during the proceedings and a heated discussion that took place afterward between U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and State Attorney Angela Corey.

Alexander, 31, was convicted in March of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in an August 2010 shooting. Alexander has maintained her innocence, saying she fired only a "warning shot" when confronted by her attacking, threatening husband, 36-year-old Rico Gray.

Several of Alexander's family and friends spoke during the hearing, criticizing "the system" for not protecting her and begging Circuit Judge James Daniel to show her mercy. But the judge said Florida's "10-20-LIFE" statutes take any discretion he might have afforded her out of his hands.

Daniel's words came moments after a group of young protesters from Dream Defenders, an equal rights organization, suddenly broke out into a melody, singing "We who believe in justice will not rest." Daniel had the group removed from the courthouse.

Following the proceedings, Brown said Corey overcharged Alexander, labeling the case "institutional racism."

"How many times have they accepted Stand Your Ground if the person that was asking for it was black?" Brown asked. "You tell me."

Brown said she has the best domestic violence attorney looking into it as well as other prejudicial outcomes against blacks.

Brown and Corey then came face-to-face in a discussion that, for the most part, consisted of Brown speaking and then Corey being interrupted by her and Alexander's supporters.

Corey, however, was able to explain some of the details to the Jacksonville congresswoman, who said she had only recently learned about the case.

"When she [Alexander] discharges a firearm in the direction of human beings, the Legislature says it's dangerous," Corey told Brown. "And one of the reasons is because the bullet went through the wall where one of the children was standing. It happened to deflect up into the ceiling, but if it had deflected down it could have hit one of the children."

Prosecutors have maintained that Gray's 13- and 10-year-old sons were standing near their father when the shot was fired, though defense attorney Kevin Cobbin contended they had already run outside.

A judge ruled against Alexander in a Stand Your Ground hearing in 2011, saying that her choice to go back in the house to face her husband was not consistent with someone who was in "genuine fear of his or her life. …

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