This blog is full of stories of miscarriages of justice and wrongful convictions. Here is a story I first heard about back in May. At the time I didn’t know all of the details, and I still don’t, but what little I did hear made me outraged. A 31-year-old mother of three, Marissa Alexander, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. Now just on those simple facts alone you have to go, WTF?
So not wanting to be someone to spread misinformation, I felt it necessary to dig a little deeper before I lambasted the people responsible for this. The first thing I learned was that the prosecutor in the case was Angela Corey. The same Angela Corey who is behind the second degree murder charge of George Zimmerman. The same Angela Corey who released an affidavit defending her charges, but excluding all exculpatory evidence. Like the fact that George had injuries supporting his claim of self-defense. Like the fact that there are witnesses who will testify that Travon was on top and that it was George screaming for help. Still she felt it necessary to bring second degree murder charges. That story will play out in the months ahead, and Angela Corey’s actions in that case will fall under further scrutiny. But let’s get back to the case of Marissa Alexander.
Marissa had just given birth to a premature baby nine days earlier. She was estranged from her husband. But she needed his signature on the birth certificate in order for Marissa to get health insurance for the baby. Marissa had a restraining order against her husband. Since I haven’t read the trial transcripts or any of the depositions, I can only go on what I’ve been able to uncover elsewhere. And, as I said earlier, I don’t want to spread misinformation. But what I do know is that there are two sides of the story. One is that she pointed the gun at Rico and his two kids and one that she never pointed the gun at anyone. The fact is she did fire the gun once. No one was injured. Marissa claimed she fired a warning shot to keep Rico from approaching her.
I’m not going to go into the details of stand your ground and what she should or shouldn’t have done. There was testimony given in court that corroborated Marissa’s claim.
The mother of one of Rico Gray’s children testified in court that her son explained to her, “Ms. Alexander did not fire at us, but rather fired in the air because Dad was beating her.”
So now Angela Corey enters the picture. She has to take someone’s side, so she takes the side of the husband. The husband has a history of domestic abuse. The first thing Angela does is offer Marissa a plea deal of three years in prison for aggravated assault. Marissa declines. She had a legal right to carry a weapon; she had training in using the weapon; and she had a right to defend herself from her abusive husband. I wouldn’t have taken the deal either. But Angela Corey is a prosecutor. She has everything in her favor. She is not too happy with Marissa and decides that she is going to teach Marissa and her lawyer a lesson. Angela could have chosen to go to trial on a simple aggravated assault charge and not bring the use of a weapon into the trial. She knew that under Florida’s mandatory sentencing guidelines that as soon as she brought the gun into the case the mandatory sentence, if she won, was going to be twenty years. So rather than use common sense and simple decency, Angela Corey decided to show Marissa who is boss.
But Angela had some problems with her case. There was plenty of evidence in Marissa’s favor. Her husband’s history of domestic violence. The fact that the husband had used one of his children to lie for him in another case. But Angela knows how to work the legal system and use her position as a prosecutor to get exactly what she wanted. She made sure that there was no testimony given related to Rico’s domestic violence record. “It wasn’t relevant,” she would later claim. When pressure started to mount after the verdict, Angela Corey started making statements about how Marissa intended to kill her husband, even though there is nothing to support that claim including the charges brought against Marissa.
The jury took just twelve minutes to sentence Marissa to twenty years in prison. This case should be the poster child for what is wrong with our justice system – mandatory sentencing that takes away common sense, prosecutors who are driven by ego rather than simple decency, judges who apply the law to the sole benefit of the prosecution, and juries who would rather be home watching the Real Housewives rather than actually debate the merits of their decision.
My guess is that you will hear a lot more about this case. In fact, a march in Florida is planned for tomorrow. I’m betting it will get national attention. And Angela Corey will once again have to answer for her actions.