In Florida, here’s how the Stand Your Ground Law is working out:
If you’re a middle aged male, and you stalk a teenager you suspect to be a criminal, and kill him, you can go free.
If you’re an older white man, and you catch your wife cheating, you get to kill her lover and go free.
If you’re a young 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…
On July 13, George Zimmerman received a not guilty verdict for the murder of Trayvon Martin. In February 2012, while playing ‘cop’ as a neighborhood watch captain, Zimmerman stalked Martin, got into a physical altercation with the teenager, and shot Martin dead. George Zimmerman walked out of the Florida courtroom a free man. One of the jurors later came forward, and said she felt like Zimmerman got away with murder.
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) was raping her. He used the the Stand Your Ground law to bypass justice. Then, only months later, 0n May 30, Ralph Wald walked out of court a free man.
It would seem nothing good could come from the above stories, but something did. The Zimmerman and Ward cases have sparked renewed attention to one of most racist, sexist and unjust court cases, Florida has known.
Three years ago, days after giving birth, Marissa Alexander, 31, fired a warning shot to stop her abusive husband. No one was hurt by the mother of three, who acted in self-defense. The courts, defying any kind of truth, justice,or sanity, sentenced Marissa Alexander to 20-years in prison. 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.
To help Marissa Alexander, please sign/share this petition.
Here is an interview with Marissa Alexander’s father and first husband:
Marissa is still behind bars. She has a new team of lawyers who have filed an appeal. A national support campaign is starting to take off, Free Marissa Now, which is building awareness for the case and the problems of domestic violence, unequal application of Stand Your Ground, and unjust Mandatory Minimum sentencing. There is a new and updated petition at Change.org and a Facebook Free Marissa Now, page to find updates.
Here is a statement from FreeMarissaNow:
The political climate created by the George Zimmerman trial has shed light on the opaque imaginations of what some think is a post-racial nation. As long as the Florida justice system has a double standard for identifying criminal behavior, it breaches our core right to safety. The Zimmerman case was about the freedom to safely walk the streets without being profiled and pursued as a criminal based on reemerging Jim Crow codes, especially in the south. Paradoxically, this trial has been juxtaposed to the Marissa Alexander case; a black woman who stood her ground in her home to defend herself from domestic violence and was consequently sentenced to twenty years in prison when no one was physically injured by her actions.Marissa is supported by hundreds of advocates nationally who are concerned about her and the message her sentence sends to victims of domestic violence everywhere.
The Free Marissa Now Campaign is calling for the grassroots community to stand your ground about your right to give voice to this situation and not be complacent. We want to see justice done for young Brother Trayvon Martin, who can’t tell his side of the story, and for his family. And we will continue to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to defend themselves without fear of criminalization and to tell their stories. We see this as another defining moment for racial and gender justice that comes on the heels of the rollback in voting rights.There is justifiable cause for rage and protest of the violence of racism embedded in the Florida criminal justice system. This is not the time to shut down but show up and turn rage into resistance through organized and peaceful protests. We need to build a movement to stop racist murder and race and sex bias in the courts. We encourage people to use their resources to organize and voices to speak truth to power to create change.We are standing our ground for peace and justice and encourage organizers and survivors to join us Free Marissa Now on FB and Tumbler to share in our collective power and actions.
Free Marissa Now [email protected]
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. Awareness often must come first – before any change can occur. I will continue to follow up on this story. Marissa Alexander must not get lost in the shuffle.
There is something we can do:
To Help Marissa Alexander, Please Sign & Share This Petition.
You can write to Marissa here: (Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for her to reply, if she’s able.)
Marissa Alexander #J46944
11120 NW Gainesville Rd.
If you are being abused, please there is help. Please contact: National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE
(Note: This story is an update from my previous Liberals Unite story). You can search for updates by typing in Marissa Alexander in the upper right Liberals Unite serch box. Sources: FreeMarissaNow, Liberals Unite, AlterNet/Katie Halper, RT, Miami Herald, Wikipedia, Change.org,Huffington Post, The Florida Legislature, National Domestic Violence Hotline
|Leslie Salzillo is an activist, political commentator and visual artist. She began contributing to Liberals Unite in June of 2013.|