In light of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, let’s take a look at how the justice system has been working for Florida these days:
If you’re an older white man and you catch your wife cheating on you with another man, you get to kill him, then go free.
If you’re a black woman and you fire a warning shot to scare off a physically abusive husband who’s aggressively coming at you, after saying, “If I can’t have you, no one will,” then you get to go to prison for 20 years.
There are so many things wrong here I’m not sure where to begin, but racism, sexism, and bigotry jump right out there to the top of the list. And I think it’s fair to say, given these examples, the laws work for some, but not others…
This past March, Ralph Wald, 70, got up in the middle of the night, saw his wife Johanna Lynn Flores, 41, in the living room, the arms of his neighbor, Walter Conley, 32. Wald grabbed his gun and shot Conley in the back, three times, killing him. Ward later claimed he thought Conley, a known lover of his wife’s, was raping her. He used the the Stand Your Ground law to bypass justice. On May 30, Ralph Wald walked out of court a free man.
It would seem nothing good could come from the above case, but something did. The Ward case brought renewed attention to one of most racist out-of-judicial-whack-job cases in Florida courts.
Three years ago, 31-year old mother of three, Marissa Alexander, acted in self-defense, hurting no one, and received a 20-year conviction. Within 12 minutes, the jury found her guilty of aggravated assault, even though her estranged abusive husband admitted in his deposition, she had every right to do what she did.
The Miami Herald reported:
The “victim,”in this twisted tale of Florida justice, was Rico Gray, a 245-pound Jacksonville truck driver with a proclivity for domestic violence.
The “criminal,” the woman sentenced to 20 years of hard time on May 11, was his wife, Marissa Alexander, five feet, two inches tall and slight enough, as Gray mentioned in his pre-trial deposition, that on two occasions he tossed her from their house without much physical exertion.
“She’s a little person so it doesn’t take much for me to pick her up and tote her out my front door . . . You know, I pretty much picked her up and throwed her out.”
“I honestly think she just didn’t want me to put my hands on her anymore so she did what she feel like she have to do to make sure she wouldn’t get hurt, you know. You know, she did what she had to do.”
He said, “The gun was never actually pointed at me. When she raised the gun down and raised it up, you know, the gun was never pointed at me. The fact is, you know . . . she never been violent toward me. I was always the one starting it. If she was violent toward me, it was because she was trying to get me up off her or stop me from doing.”
Gray’s deposition might have read like a confession of a husband charged with domestic violence, but it was Marissa Alexander who was convicted in April 2010, after a Duval circuit judge rejected her Stand Your Ground defense. The judge decided that Alexander could have fled instead of running into the garage and fetching the pistol from her car. “This is inconsistent with a person in genuine fear of his or her life,” the judge ruled — illustrating, if nothing else, that the effectiveness of the controversial self-defense statute varies wildly from one Florida circuit to the next.
Here is an interview with Marissa Alexander’s father and first husband:
It’s as if Marissa Alexander’s story came right out of, To Kill A Mockingbird/The Help. Whenever I write a story and get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach – the one that makes it emotionally painful to write, I know it’s something I need to finish and post. Awareness often must come first – before any change can occur. I will be following up on this story. Marissa Alexander will not get lost in the shuffle.
If you are being abused, there is help. Please contact: National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE
Note: Here is the July 14 update on this story. There is the new petition:
To Help Marissa Alexander: Please sign this petition.
Sources: AlterNet/Katie Halper, RT, Miami Herald, Wikipedia, Change.org, Huffington Post, The Florida Legislature, National Domestic Violence Hotline