Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman who was sentenced to twenty years in prison for firing a warning shot at her allegedly abusive husband, will begin her retrial in July. But this time, she faces up to sixty years in prison if convicted again for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon—one for her husband and two for his children, who were also in the room at the time. Alexander’s case lies in stark contrast to last year’s trial of George Zimmerman, who successfully argued that he had to shoot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, because he felt Martin was a danger to him.
Critics of the Zimmerman and Alexander cases fear that race and gender differences may be carrying more weight than the actual evidence. Alexander is a black woman, and George Zimmerman is not. Trayvon Martin was also black.
The jurors serving in Alexander’s original trial were instructed that she had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that her husband, Rico Gray, had battered her. And though his story has changed several times since then, in his original deposition Gray basically tells the same story she does: he was chasing her around the house, he knew she couldn’t escape through the garage, and he was approaching her refusing to leave when she fired the gun in the air. He admitted he had also called her some degrading names and said, “I told her, you know, if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you.”
Gray wasn’t the person on trial, however, and Alexander wasn’t prosecuting him, but defending herself. The original conviction was thrown out because, as Judge James H. Daniel argued, Alexander had been held to too high a standard to prove self-defense.