Marissa Alexander, the woman who may face 60 years in prison for firing a single ‘warning shot’ that injured no one, was back in court this morning requesting a new Stand Your Ground immunity hearing. Judge James Daniel said he would not issue a ruling today, the Florida Times Union reported.
Alexander was denied immunity from prosecution in her first such hearing. Today, her attorney argued that there is new evidence of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, Rico Gray, before she fired a shot in the direction of Gray and his two children.
Faith Gay, who was not yet representing Alexander at her first Stand Your Ground hearing, told Judge James Daniel that Gray’s children had been pressured to lie by their father, the paper reported. She also argued that Gray’s history of violence against women had not been raised in the first hearing. Assistant state attorney Rich Mantei deemed the evidence not “new enough to matter,” according to a tweet by Florida Times-Union reporter Larry Hannan.
At the hearing, Judge Daniel repeatedly expressed concern about the precedent a second Stand Your Ground hearing would set.
Alexander was convicted of aggravated assault in 2012 and sentenced to 20 years. Citing improper jury instructions, a judge has granted her a new trial, set for July. State Attorney Angela Corey is now seeking a 60-year sentence, 20 years for each person present when the shot was fired.
Alexander’s case has been embraced by racial justice and feminist activists who see the entire sequence of events – from the decision to press charges, to the denial of Stand Your Ground immunity, to her guilty verdict – as a symbol of the racially unequal application of justice around self-defense laws. That intensified after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin, and after Michael Dunn was not convicted of murdering Jordan Davis. (Dunn will be retried, by Corey.) Corey in particular, who failed to get a conviction in the Zimmerman case, has been criticized for her zealous prosecution of Alexander, including sending a controversial email to legislators in March with a pamphlet illustrated with mug shots entitled “The Truth About Marissa Alexander.”
Women defending themselves against predatory men was purportedly part of the rationale for Stand Your Ground laws. “Calls to repeal ‘Stand Your Ground’ are anti-woman. Imposing a duty-to-flee places the safety of the rapist above a woman’s own life,” wrote a pair of Florida lawmakers in 2012. But the fact that the majority of violence against women occurs within the home, and more often involves a gun turned on a woman, complicates that claim. Donna Coker, an expert on domestic violence law at the University of Miami Law School, told msnbc in March, “I do not think that Stand Your Ground benefits women facing intimate partner violence in any way that they wouldn’t have had under the prior law. And I think it increases the risk to a significant number of people.”