The latest in the Marissa Alexander saga isn't surprising, but it's still heartbreaking: today, the judge reluctantly sentenced her to a 20-year prison sentence in Florida -- all for defending herself from an abusive husband.
The judge had no discretion, no flexibility, and no choice: Florida's 10-20-Life law required a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years, so that's what he had to give to Ms. Alexander. This story sums it up and quotes FAMM Florida Project Director Greg Newburn, who was present at the sentencing today:
"If we want to protect self-defense in Florida, we can't have a 20-year mandatory minimum hanging over the heads of people who fire warning shots instead of just killing their attacker," said Greg Newburn, Florida Project Director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
Newburn will attend the first public hearing of the task force appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to review the "stand your ground" law on June 12 in Sanford, where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer. The acknowledged shooter, George Zimmerman, claimed self-defense, but is now facing second degree murder charges.
Angela Corey, the Jacksonville state attorney and special prosecutor handling the Martin killing, will obviously fight any attempt to use the "stand your ground" defense in that case. And she said it doesn't apply to Alexander, either. Her office had offered a plea bargain of three years, but Alexander rejected it, hoping to convince a jury she had been in fear for her life.
"She got two shots at her self-defense theory," Corey told the Huffington Post on Thursday. "Neither a judge nor a jury bought it."
"It's a pattern we see all across the state," Newburn said. "[Defendants] turn down a plea deal because they think they're innocent…If you're guilty and you know it, you take the plea."
In Friday's sentencing, Judge James Daniel said he had no choice under state law but to give Alexander the 20-year sentence.
"Under the state's 10-20-life law, a conviction for aggravated assault where a firearm has been discharged carries a minimum and maximum sentence of 20 years without regarding to any extenuating or mitigating circumstances that may be present, such as those in this case," he said.
Now Alexander's options are few. She can appeal, which Newburn says she will do. And the governor and Cabinet can grant her clemency – that is, if one of the members of the clemency board can bring up her case, because Alexander herself can't apply until she's served ten years, or half her sentence.We'll keep you posted on what happens from here.