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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Marissa Alexander Finally Sees Justice (Some What).

As chronicled several times before here, Marissa Alexander has endured far more than her "fair share" of injustice. Terrorized and threatened with death by an abusive ex-husband, she took rightful steps to defend herself and her children. She lives in a state in which self defense [retreat optional] is mandated by law. Yet, a warning shot above an advancing, violent partner's head ended her in prison with a 20-year sentence. After national outrage, she won an appeal of her case and a new trial... with much higher stakes. Now, after three years of sheer injustice, false imprisonment, victim-punishing, and cruel, racist double-standards, She is finally a (some what) free woman... for now. But not really.

 A timeline providing details of Alexander's case from Aug. 2010 to January 2015 can be viewed HERE.

Here are the basic facts of the case: Marissa Alexander's nightmare with American injustice began on August 1st 2010, when she had attempted to flee from her violent and abusive estranged husband, Rico Gray. She had just given birth to her third child, nine days prior. When Gray snooped on his wife's cell phone and discovered innocuous messages to a former husband, he flew into a rage and accused her of infidelity. The serial wife/girlfriend-beater began assaulting Alexander. It's worth noting that Gray already has a history of violent and abusive criminal behavior against women. At one point she barricaded herself in the bathroom. Gray broke in, grabbed her, and threw her to the floor. In an effort to flee, Alexander ran into the garage of their home, where her vehicle was. Upon realizing her car keys were still in the house, she retrieved her registered gun from the vehicle. Upon re-entering the home, a violent Rico advanced upon Alexander again. She fired one warning shot above his head, the bullet lodging into the ceiling. Other than Alexander having been assaulted by her husband, no one was injured that day. However, when police arrived they arrested HER, and she was charged with aggravated assault. 

Victim-blaming: Alexander's estranged husband, Rico Gray, giving a media interview at the D.A.'s office in May 2012. Gray claims that it was his wife who was being violent back in Aug. 2010, and that he was simply defending himself. This was nearly an identical "self-defense" excuse/lie told by George Zimmerman, when describing the moments leading up to his Feb. 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin.

District attorney Angela Cory would be the one prosecuting Alexander's case. The D.A.'s office offered Alexander - an abuse victim - a "deal": except a three year prison sentence or, go to trial, possibly lose, and get 20 years in prison! That anyone would face a possible sentence of 20 years is largely due to the fact that prosecutors routinely and grossly over-prosecute as to force or leverage people - guilty or not - into "accepting" plea deals for much smaller sentences, probation, fines, or a combination of all three. But in Alexander's case, it is additionally due to FL's unique "10-20-life" sentencing law, which had gone into effect in 1999. Considering she was the battered wife who caused harm to no one, the very concept of accepting a three-year sentence was cruel and unthinkable. So Alexander opted to go to trial... and given her case, who could blame her. After all, her estranged husband Gray was a documented abuser whom had beaten up his wife while she was pregnant. And he was on record admitting as much. Ex-girlfriends are on record claiming Gray had assaulted and threatened them, as well. And the gun Alexander used was legal; registered in her name. She has no prior criminal record.   Unfortunately, she lives in a state where only madness reigns. In May 2012, a jury convicted her of *three individual counts of aggravated assault. It took them 12 minutes to do so. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. During pretrial proceedings, Alexander's lawyers had motioned to dismiss all criminal charges against their client, citing FL's "stand your ground" law. That motion was denied. [*Even though Alexander had fired just one warning shot above Rico Gray's head, their other two children happened to have been in the same room. Hence, the three counts. Which means that the charges she was convicted of were applied in the most cynical, disingenuous way possible.]  
Part of why this is soo significant is because the following year in July 2013, D.A. Cory - the same person whom had "won" a conviction against Alexander - had just blown a conviction against George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Seldom has there been a more grossly stark set of contrasts of injustice... even in Florida!

However, as in most cases, silver linings are to be had. The aggressive prosecution/conviction of a battered woman defending herself, and the "not-guilty" verdict of a racist wanton child-murderer, had not gone unnoticed by many people. Especially since both cases occurred within months of each other, and were handed by the same district attorney's office in FL. In the wake of Zimmerman's June 2012 trial, an immense deal of renewed attention had been focused upon Alexander's plight. In September 2013, an appellate court ordered a new trial, declaring that jury instructions had unfairly shifted the burden of [proving] guilt from the state's prosecution to the defense. Alexander was released on bail in November 2013 and would be placed on house arrest, pending her new trial. In the wake of this, D.A. Corey announced her intentions to re-try Alexander... but this time the bitch would aim for three consecutive 20 year sentences, amounting to 60 years in prison, should Alexander be found guilty in the second trial! This level of sheer vindictiveness and vitriol on the part of a state prosecutor should have gotten Angela Corey disbarred, if not brought up on charges herself!

For the battered woman, persecuted survivor, and mother of three, 2014 was spent attending numerous court hearings and enduring trial sets and delays. Alexander had been set for retrial on July 28th. This date was then pushed back to Dec. 1st. A second trial would not come to be, however. On November 24th 2014, Alexander accepted a plea deal, in which she would agree to plead "guilty" to the three bogus aggravated assault charges. In return, she would serve another 65 days in jail, before being released in January 2015 (terms of the plea were three years in prison; the so-called "bargain" initially offered to her in July 2011. Because of the 1,030 days already spend in jail, Alexander was credited with "time served"... oh how fucking generous.) The plea meant that there would be no trial in December, as scheduled. A jury would not hear testimony from five other women that Alexander's ex-husband had also physically abused them in the past. It also meant that she would remain on probation for the following two years, and have a felony mark on her record for life. Alexander was freed from jail on January 27th 2015. 

Freed from jail, Alexander seen here with her children.

Even though Marissa Alexander is no-longer behind bars, the so-called "freedom" she has now is but an obscene facsimile of what actual freedom is. Having never been arrested nor convicted of any crime, this domestic abuse survivor now has a felony conviction to burden her for the rest of her life. She still must endure an additional two years probation, which includes house arrest and electronic surveillance monitoring via an ankle bracelet. Meanwhile, she is being forced to wear an ankle monitor, which she mush pay for herself (either that, or go into debt or back to jail). Three years in jail, over nothing! Her children taken away, her life ruined over NOTHING! And it can never ever be denied that RACE and SEX were, from the very inception, thoroughly embedded in this national case. Had Alexander been White, America would have poured its collective heart out for her! Politicians and media personalities would have gotten directly involved, and Angela Corey's office would have been embarrassed and pressured into making concessions early on. There would have been no judicially declared "technicality" coming in, more than a year after a conviction! Had Alexander been a man, fending off an attack of another man, this case would not have gone nearly as far. Especially had the results been the same: one bullet fired into a ceiling, no one injured. What was done to Alexander (and what she continues to endure) was a travesty. It was criminal. It had not a damned thing to do with justice, and everything to do with racist/misogynist double-standards, personal vignettes, politics, and re-victimization. 

Sadly, as bad as it is in FL, it's really no better anywhere else. What happened to Marissa Alexander happens to Black women all over the country, all the time. She was simply lucky in that one: her ex-husband did not murder her and two: that her ordeal received any attention at all. She is free, yes, kinda sorta. But there is no positive outcome here...     

Additional timeline of the case can be read HERE.
Facebook official solidarity page for Alexander can be viewed HERE

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