Late Saturday evening, George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The issue of self-defense played a central role in Zimmerman's not guilty plea and his defense's argument against the second-degree murder charges, and his acquittal is drawing comparisons in the media to the verdict of another high-profile Florida shooting incident: the case of Marissa Alexander.
Alexander, an African-American Florida woman, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012 for shooting what she described as warning shots into a wall during a confrontation with her husband. Alexander's lawyers claimed self-defense in the case, and said her husband had a history of abuse in their relationship. They invoked Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which gives people the right to use lethal force if they feel their life is threatened. The jury ultimately sided with prosecutors in deciding Alexander's actions were not in self-defense, WJXT reported.
Her sentencing fell under the guidelines of what's known in Florida as the "10-20-Life" law, which set certain mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with a firearm. The law enacted in 1999 requires that any crime committed with a gun earns the perpetrator a minimum ten year sentence, as the Florida Department of Corrections explains. If the firearm is discharged, the convicted will receive a 20-year minimum sentence, and if shots fired from the gun injure or kill anyone, the minimum sentence is 25-years to life.
Angela Corey, who oversaw the prosecution of Zimmerman, also tried the case against Alexander, and defended the sentencing at the time.
"When she [Alexander] discharges a firearm in the direction of human beings, the legislature says it’s dangerous," Corey said, according to the Florida Times-Union. "And one of the reasons is because the bullet went through the wall where one of the children was standing. It happened to deflect up into the ceiling, but if it had deflected down it could have hit one of the children."
Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.