You call this justice? Not if it’s the victim who goes to prison - By Fred Grimm

Fred Grimm
Fred Grimm joined the Herald in 1976. Since 1991, he writes a column about crime, politics and life in Broward. Read his blog, The Grimm Truth - Disparate thoughts and random opinions of longtime Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm.

You call this justice? Not if it’s the victim who goes to prison


Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun into the air to frighten off her husband.
Lincoln B. Alexander / via AP
Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun into the air to frighten off her husband.
The “victim,” in this twisted tale of Florida justice, was Rico Gray, a 245-pound Jacksonville truck driver with a proclivity for domestic violence.The “criminal,” the woman sentenced to 20 years of hard time on May 11, was his wife, Marissa Alexander, five feet, two inches tall and slight enough, as Gray mentioned in his pre-trial deposition, that on two occasions he tossed her from their house without much physical exertion. “She’s a little person so it doesn’t take much for me to pick her up and tote her out my front door . . . You know, I pretty much picked her up and throwed her out.”
In the months before the incident that sent Marissa to prison, in addition to bodily heaving her out the door, Gray had beaten her, head-butted her in the face while she was pregnant, sent her to the hospital. One of his three arrests on domestic violence charges had been for an attack on Alexander that led to a conviction and probation. On Sept. 30, 2009, a Duval County circuit judge issued an injunction against Gray, ordering him to keep away from Alexander. (In his deposition, Gray said he was previously arrested for striking two other women in the face who, he explained, “wouldn’t shut up.”)
But on August 10, 2010, as Gray approached her in a rage, Alexander (a software firm employee with an MBA and no previous criminal record) fired a pistol twice into the air. A jury convicted her of aggravated assault with a firearm and, under Florida’s draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the presiding judge was left with no discretion. So she got 20 years. Her thug husband got custody of their baby son.
Women’s groups, anti-domestic violence activists, the Jacksonville NAACP, U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown and advocates for sentencing reform have all issued outraged statements condemning the verdict and the sentence. (A “Free Marissa” demonstration planned for Tuesday in Jacksonville was postponed after the city was slammed by Tropical Storm Beryl.)
But it was the words of Gray himself, in his Nov. 22, 2010, deposition, that best illustrated the perversity of his wife’s prosecution and conviction and unyielding prison sentence.
Sitting in the State Attorney’s Office, Gray described how he had erupted in anger when he discovered text messages on his wife’s phone to another man. (Alexander had moved out, but had come home briefly that day to retrieve her clothes.) “I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and . . . I told her, you know, I used to always tell her that, if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you. It was not the first time of ever saying it to her.”
Gray said he had intimated that he had unsavory friends who would carry out vengeful acts on his behalf. “I ain’t going to lie. I been on the streets before I started driving trucks, you know, so I know a lot of people and she knows I know a lot of people.”
As they argued, he recounted, Marissa retreated into the bathroom. “I don’t recall breaking the door open, but I know I beat on it hard enough where it could have been broken open. Probably had some dents.”
Once he managed to get inside, he said he pushed her into the door with enough violence to further damage the door.
Did you put your hands around her neck? “Not that particular day. No.”
They struggled. She ran out through the laundry room into the garage. “But I knew she couldn’t leave out of the garage because the garage door was locked.” She came back, he said, with a gun, yelling at him to leave. “I told her I ain’t leaving until you talk to me, I ain’t going nowhere, and so I started walking toward her and she shot in the air.”
He added details. “I start walking toward her, because she was telling me to leave the whole time and, you know, I was cursing and all that.” His two sons by a previous marriage were in the room. “If my kids wouldn’t have been there, I probably would have put my hand on her. Probably hit her. I got five baby mommas and I put my hands on every last one of them, except for one.
“I physically abused them. Emotionally. You know.”
And then came what should have been the clincher: “I honestly think she just didn’t want me to put my hands on her anymore so she did what she feel like she have to do to make sure she wouldn’t get hurt, you know. You know, she did what she had to do.”
He said, “The gun was never actually pointed at me. When she raised the gun down and raised it up, you know, the gun was never pointed at me. The fact is, you know . . . she never been violent toward me. I was always the one starting it. If she was violent toward me, it was because she was trying to get me up off her or stop me from doing.”
Gray’s deposition might have read like a confession of a husband charged with domestic violence, but it was Marissa Alexander who was convicted in April after a Duval circuit judge rejected her Stand Your Ground defense. The judge decided that Alexander could have fled instead of running into the garage and fetching the pistol from her car. “This is inconsistent with a person in genuine fear of his or her life,” the judge ruled — illustrating, if nothing else, that the effectiveness of the controversial self-defense statute varies wildly from one Florida circuit to the next.
Marissa fired the gun twice that day into the wall. No one was injured. But the State Attorney’s Office said the reckless discharge of a firearm endangered the children. A jury (never told about the mandatory 20-year sentence) agreed. Circuit Judge James Daniel, handing down the verdict, noted that because of the state law, the sentencing decision “has been entirely taken out of my hands.”
Duval State Attorney Angela Corey, the same special prosecutor brought in by the governor to oversee the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, dismissed the growing protests against the disproportionate verdict. Corey noted that just a few days before her trial, Alexander had rejected a plea offer that would have sent her to prison for three years instead of 20.
But three years would still seem a harsh sentence for a woman whose crime was to use a firearm to fend off the likes of Rico Gray. “The way I was with women, they was like they had to walk on egg shells around me. They never knew what I was thinking. What I might say . . . What I might do . . . I hit them. Push them.”

Some victim.

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 (New York, New York) – 5/29/2012 – Attorney Michael G. Dowd brings over 30 years to the table in defending battered women. Dowd is known to have an exceptional history in fighting for battered women and feels that Marissa Alexander's case is one of the worse examples of domestic and judicial abuse that he's encountered. Marissa Alexander suffered extensive beatings by her husband and has most recently been beaten up by the Florida judicial system. Alexander was handed a 20 year sentence on May 11, 2012 as a result of firing a warning shot into the wall. Alexander feels that the shot saved her life - it scared off her obsessively abusive husband. The incident occurred just days after giving birth. Attorney Michael Dowd's legal advocacy efforts have attracted support globally. His dedication to fighting for battered women brings years of expertise to the movement for Marissa Alexander's Freedom.

Jacksonville, Florida May 29th Rally For Marissa Alexander - Cancelled

The 8:00AM May 29th Rally in Jacksonville, Florida for Marissa Alexander Has Been Cancelled due to tropical storm Beryl. New Date And Time To Be Announced. If you have planned rallies in other states and communities please feel free to continue your plans. Marissa Alexander, a mother of 3, MBA , had no prior criminal record; was attacked by her husband who has a known and documented history of domestic abuse on August 1, 2010. Marissa was arrested after she fired a warning shot into the wall - after her husband threatened to kill her. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. UPDATES:

Congressman Corrine Brown on Marissa Alexander (Jacksonville, FL) Ruling

Congresswoman Corrine Brown Deplores Marissa Alexander Ruling (Washington, DC) Congresswoman Brown made the following statement: Earlier today, I watched in horror and extreme sadness as a judge sentenced Marissa Alexander, a documented victim of domestic violence, to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison for firing warning shot into the air after she was attacked by her husband. This African American woman didn’t hurt anyone and now she might not hug her children for twenty years. The imbalance in this case was abundantly clear in the courtroom. On the State’s Attorney side of the room, I saw nine prosecutors and twenty officers. On Marissa’s side, I saw a lone defense attorney doing his best in what clearly an unfair fight. My first step in this case will be to bring in the nation’s best experts in domestic violence law. The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today. One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the “Stand Your Ground Law” will not apply to them. Just minutes before the incident, Marissa’s husband told her “if I can't have you, nobody going to have you.” Millions of abused women have heard those words. Abused women like Marissa, who has a master’s degree and no prior record, need support and counseling so they don’t find themselves in these situations to begin with. Arresting and prosecuting them when no one was hurt does not help anyone. Even worse, mandatory minimum sentences just make the system appear arbitrary and cruel. The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently. A mere fifty miles away in Sanford Florida, a white man who shot a black teenager and claimed self-defense was not even arrest until community leaders and people around the world expressed their outrage. I have spoken to countless lawyers and they have yet to discover any cases in Florida where an African American was able to successfully use the “Stand Your Ground Law” defense in a hearing.” Another step I will take is to call for a study into racial disparities in the application of this law. What I didn’t see in the courtroom today is mercy or justice. The three year plea deal from Angela Corey is not mercy and a mandatory twenty year sentence is not justice. I hope that the people will come to Marissa’s defense as the system has so utterly failed her. This is just the beginning, not the end.

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Take Action For Marissa Alexander

Marissa Alexander faces a 20 year sentence on Friday May 11th 2012.  Angela Corey has the power to remove the mandatory 20 year sentence.

Please call and/or e-mail the following individuals on Tuesday May 8, 2012 through Friday May 11, 2012 and ask that Marissa Alexander's penalty is lessened.  You may obtain additional information regarding her case at:
Please call and e-mail State Attorney Angela Corey (Better known as special prosecutor for George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin Case)
         Angela Corey phone (904) 630-2400

  • Governor Rick Scott
          Phone – 850-488-7146

  • E-mail Governor Scott at the following website

  • Write a Florida Newspaper via the NRA link below - click on the state of Florida and choose 5 newspapers