“Stand Your Ground” Defense Doesn’t Work for Everyone

Photo courtesy of BET.com

Photo courtesy of BET.com


Marissa Alexander is many things- a black woman, a mother, a domestic abuse survivor, and a violent criminal serving a 20-year bid.

Her crime in the eyes of a jury that took only 12 minutes to render their verdict was three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, according to TheGrio.com. The thing is, no one was actually hurt. That’s unless you consider a ceiling a person.

It all happened during a confrontation between Alexander and Rico Gray, her then-husband, in which she felt threatened. Considering the fact that Gray had a history of abusing her physically, it is not hard to understand why she may have been frightened.

So, in the course of the confrontation she took out a gun and fired it above her husband’s head, presumably to scare him off, since she never once aimed at him directly. His two children happened to be in the room during the incident, hence the three counts, though the children were never hurt, either.

A typical self-defense case? In the eyes of many, yes. A Stand Your Ground-worthy case? In the eyes of the law, it should have been. In fact, Alexander attempted to use the law as her defense, but the judge in the case rejected it. TheGrio.com explains the outcome of the case:

“The fact that Alexander, a domestic violence victim, was denied use of ‘Stand Your Ground’ to facilitate her claim of self-defense has served as an example for some of how the law is not equally applied to all races and all genders.”

The fact that George Zimmerman actually did shoot someone, and that person died, yet Zimmerman is walking free doesn’t make much sense in comparison to Alexander’s case. Zimmerman shot and killed someone “in self defense” who was smaller than himself and was unarmed; Alexander fired a warning shot in self defense that didn’t hit anyone and was not intended to hit anyone, while trying to protect herself from someone who had battered her before. Yet she’s in prison and he’s not.

Fortunately for Alexander, Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard also sees this as an imbalance of justice. According to TheGrio:

“State Senator Dwight Bullard sent letters to three members of the governor’s cabinet Monday, requesting that Alexander be granted a pardon and released from prison.  The letter was sent to Attorney General Pam Bondi, the state’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Attwater, and the Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putman.”

Under the Florida constitution, the governor has the authority to give pardons. In the letter, Bullard writes:

“[Alexander] was denied a defense under Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ protections, and was found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  Surely Ms. Alexander had a clear right to defend herself and not retreat from the middle of an altercation in which her life and safety were at stake.”

So what are the chances the pardon will be issued? Bullard is optimistic, saying that the work of the Dream Defenders (a group of young activists fighting to have Stand Your Ground repealed) has helped bring more exposure to Alexander’s case. He says:

“When [the Florida government] looks at the facts of the case it’s obvious, and that’s what gives me optimism,” says Bullard, “Opponents of ‘Stand Your Ground’ didn’t have much to look forward to [after the Zimmerman verdict] but between the success of the Dream Defenders who have been protesting for weeks in the capital, people are now doing a serious analysis of the flaws in ‘Stand Your Ground’ and this will carry over to Ms. Alexander’s case.  For the everyday citizen [it] is hard to understand how one person [George Zimmerman] goes free claiming self defense for killing an unarmed teenager and another person goes to jail for killing no one.”

“These facts should create an uneasiness and from the political standpoint it would be in the best interest of the governor to pardon Ms. Alexander.”

There are several petitions on Alexander’s behalf calling for a pardon, as well.

2 thoughts on ““Stand Your Ground” Defense Doesn’t Work for Everyone

  1. Tanya,
    With no knowledge of who, why, and where so-called stand-your-ground laws came into being, one senses that these laws have created more problems than those who took actions to enact them anticipated. These may not be just laws but alibis, which should be rescinded before more tragic events occur because of their alibi cover.
    Thank you,

    • I agree. My hope is that as more people, including ourselves, talk and raise their concerns about this law, politicians will realize that the public doesn’t want this law. It has no place in any society.

      Thanks for your comment! Discussions are important.

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