A Florida woman who fired warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.Or is it? (Link is PDF; here are three screen shots from the prosecution's motion in opposition for immunity):
Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville had said the state's "Stand Your Ground" law should apply to her because she was defending herself against her allegedly abusive husband when she fired warning shots inside her home in August 2010. She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order.
CBS Affiliate WETV reports that Circuit Court Judge James Daniel handed down the sentence Friday.
Under Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing requirements Alexander could receive a lesser sentence, even though she has never been in trouble with the law before. Judge Daniel said the law did not allow for extenuating or mitigating circumstances to reduce the sentence below the 20-year minimum.
That does seem a wee bit inconsistent with the initial article. But there is a follow-up and in that follow-up article, CBS News points out something interesting about the case:
Alexander's case was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the Florida State's Attorney who is also prosecuting George Zimmerman. Alexander was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and because she discharged a firearm during the incident, the case fell under Florida's "10-20-life" law, enacted in 1999, which mandates a 20-year sentence for use of a gun during the commission of certain crimes.Angela Corey appears to be the Keyser Sose of the Florida justice system.
Corey initially offered Alexander a three year deal if she pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, but according to CBS affiliate WTEV, Alexander did not believe she had done anything wrong, and rejected the plea. Her bet did not pay off: the jury in the case returned a guilty verdict in less than 15 minutes.
It appears that Alexander was guilty because she went back to her car and got the gun, then fired it. That's not self-defense, nor is it Standing Your Ground. I think you can argue successfully that Marissa Alexander did commit a crime that day. But should what she actually did merit 20 years? At least at first glance, you would think not. Mandatory minimum sentences are always politically appealing, but in real life they don't work so well. There is a problem here, but it has nothing to do with Zimmerman or even Marissa Alexander. Rather, it's the "10-20-life" law.