Marissa Alexander, the Jacksonville woman who fired a warning shot at her abusive husband and ended up with a 20-year prison sentence, will find out this week if she’s getting out of jail.
Circuit Judge James Daniel set a hearing for Friday, Nov. 8, at 2 p.m. to decide whether Alexander will get bail. Daniel also said Alexander’s trial will start on Monday, March 31.
Alexander was convicted in March 2012. The 20 years was a mandatory sentence under Florida law.
Alexander has maintained her innocence, saying she fired a warning shot when confronted by her attacking, threatening husband, Rico Gray. Gray’s two sons from a previous relationship were also in the room when Alexander fired the shot.
The appellate court ruled that Daniel made a mistake in shifting the burden to Alexander to prove she was acting in self-defense when she fired the gun. During jury instructions, Daniel said she must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was battered by Gray.
The burden should have been on the prosecution to prove that Alexander was not acting in self-defense, the appellate court said.
Alexander’s new Fort Lauderdale attorney, Bruce Zimet, said this trial will be very different from the first one but declined to go into detail on how that will be.
But Zimet did say Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows the use of deadly force instead of retreating if the person is afraid for his or her life, would play an important part in the trial.
Alexander claimed Stand Your Ground before the first trial, but Circuit Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt rejected that claim after holding a hearing on the issue.
Zimet, who did not represent Alexander in the original trial, said there would not be another Stand Your Ground hearing, but the jury would be asked to determine if Alexander was standing her ground.
Alexander said her husband accused her of infidelity and questioned whether he was the father of the child she’d given birth to a week earlier. Alexander told him to leave and locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck and shoved her to the floor.
She ran into the garage but found she couldn’t leave because the garage door wouldn’t open. She got a gun from the glove compartment of a car in the garage, went back into the house and when Gray saw her, she said he charged saying he was going to kill her. Alexander fired the gun.
The Stand Your Ground claim was rejected because Alexander returned to the house after fleeing into the garage. Prosecutors claim Alexander could have gotten out of the garage but came back into the house yelling threats at Gray.
Alexander was originally released on bail after the incident occurred in August 2010. But her bail was revoked in February 2011 after she went to see Gray even though she had been ordered by a judge to stay away from him, and was arrested for battery.
Prosecutors will argue that Alexander should stay in jail when the bail hearing occurs next week.
The Rev. Richard Burton, senior director of Project REACH, which tries to help and educate felons upon their re-entry to society, said Alexander was a victim of racism.
“If Marissa was a white woman this would not be happening,” Burton said. “What Angela Corey is doing is nothing less than what the KKK did back in my day.”