Prosecuted for Standing Her Ground: The Conviction of Marissa Alexander
Angela Corey is angry. The Florida state attorney lashed out Tuesday at supporters of Marissa Alexander, who has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for defending herself against her violent and abusive husband. Corey is the one who put her away. “I think social media is going to be the destruction of this country,” Corey complained to The Washington Post of the online agitation to free the 32-year-old African-American mother of three.
Prosecuted for Standing Her Ground
by Kirsten Powers Jul 19, 2013 4:45 AM EDT
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey’s overzealous prosecution of a battered woman who sought to defend herself is a gross miscarriage of justice, writes Kirsten Powers.
Angela Corey is angry. The Florida state attorney lashed out Tuesday at supporters of Marissa Alexander, who has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for defending herself against her violent and abusive husband. Corey is the one who put her away.
“I think social media is going to be the destruction of this country,” Corey complained to The Washington Post of the online agitation to free the 32-year-old African-American mother of three.
No, it’s not Alexander’s abusive husband Rico Gray—who said in his deposition, “I got five baby mammas, and I hit every last one of them except for one”—that makes Corey see red. What really fries her bacon is the idea that anyone questions her overzealous prosecution of a battered woman acting in self-defense.
Like most domestic-abuse cases, this one is complicated. But the basic facts are these: In July 2010, after Rico Gray saw texts on his wife’s phone, he confronted her in a rage and threatened her. Alexander used her gun to fire a warning shot into the ceiling to scare off her husband. Nobody was hit, injured, or killed.
Alexander, who had no criminal record, was arrested. Contrast this with another Florida resident, George Zimmerman (also prosecuted by Corey), who had a record including an arrest for battery of a police officer and a restraining order for domestic abuse. He also had killed an unarmed teenager. Yet he wasn’t arrested until there was a national outcry and was later acquitted. Alexander—who did not kill or injure anyone—is in jail for 20 years.
Alexander’s lawyer tried to have the case thrown out based on the state’s “stand your ground” law, but was denied. Her lawyer told me, “When a woman or minority is claiming they are defending themselves, they don’t get the benefit of the doubt.” Rita Smith, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence echoed this sentiment saying, “Most battered women who kill in self-defense end up in prison. There is a well-documented bias against women (in these cases).”
Angela Corey’s prosecution was based in part on the premise that, as she told the Huffington Post, “[Alexander] was not in fear” at the time she fired the gun. This is a ludicrous thing to say. It’s worth reviewing in detail exactly what Gray said in his 2010 deposition to fully appreciate how disturbing Corey’s claim is.
Gray admitted in his deposition there had been “about four or five” incidents of domestic violence with Alexander prior to the shooting incident, including when he “pushed her back and she fell in the bathtub and she hit her head.” He said that she went to the hospital and he went to jail for that.
‘Most battered women who kill in self-defense end up in prison.’
In describing his abuse of another woman he said, “She just wouldn’t shut up.” So he hit her in the mouth. Asked about another woman he had a relationship with, Gray said, “She got hit in the mouth, same thing.”
As for the day of the shooting incident, he says when he saw the texts on Alexander’s phone he pushed his way into the bathroom to confront her. He said in the deposition: “I was mad, you know. I said, what the f—- is this, and you know, I told her that ... if I can’t have you nobody going to have you … She ain’t shit.”
Gray said that when she tried to leave the bathroom, “I met her where the sink was, and she wanted to get by me and I wouldn’t let her by and I was backing up slow but I was using my body to pretty much contain her in that one area where I want her to be at. She got the bathroom door closed and she locked it, so I were beating on it. I was there waiting for her to come out of the bathroom.”
“I was in a rage. I was in a rage, so I was saying a lot of things.” He said, “I beat on the door hard enough where it could have been broken open. Probably has some dents.” And: “I was mad, you know … I called her a whore and a bitch.”
“She was trying to get by and I was sitting there trying to make her talk to me. The more she didn’t want to talk about it, the more I was not letting her by.” After she got out of the bathroom, “I was telling her, she ain’t going nowhere, she going to sit right here. She was trying to get by … and I was telling her she not going nowhere.”
He was asked, “Did you ever tell her you knew people that would do your dirt?” Gray said, “Yeah. I ain’t going to lie. I been in the streets … I know a lot of people …” Asked if the purpose of “saying something like that was to let her know if she didn’t do what you wanted her to do that you could have hurt her or something?,” he answered, “That’s correct.”
He described her going to the garage, “but I knew that she couldn’t leave out the garage because the garage door was locked …” He reiterated, “I knew she couldn’t get out of the garage.”
“She came back through the doors and she had a gun from her car. And she said, ‘You need to leave.’ I told her, I ain’t leaving until you talk to me … and I started walking towards her and she shot in the air.”
Remember, Corey claims that Alexander was not scared at this point. Really. She also claims that Rico Gray lied in this deposition to protect Alexander. Because misogynist monsters always implicate themselves in crimes to protect women.
It’s amazing that Rico Gray can admit in excruciating detail in a deposition to violent attacks on multiple women and be a free man, but when one of those women tries to defend herself, that’s just a bridge too far for Angela Corey.
If there is any justice, the governor of Florida will pardon Alexander—as many online petitions are urging him to do—and make clear that it’s the abusers who are the menace to society, not the abused.
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Kirsten Powers is a columnist for The Daily Beast. She is also a contributor to USA Today and a Fox News political analyst. She served in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1998 and has worked in New York state and city politics. Her writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, The New York Observer, Salon.com, Elle magazine, and American Prospect online.
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Just days after the controversial George Zimmerman verdict saw him go free in the death of Trayvon Martin, another Florida self-defense case is making headlines.
Marissa Alexander, a 32-year-old African-American, was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot into the wall of her home.
She cited the state's "Stand Your Ground" law in her defense of the 2010 incident, when she tried to end a violent argument with her abusive husband. A judge and jury didn't buy it, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said the contrast in the George Zimmerman and Marissa Alexander cases shows grievous injustices in the justice system: "In one case Mr. Zimmerman kills a young man and walks away, free to kill again. And Marissa shot no one, hurt no one, and she's in jail for 20 years." "We see radical racial polarization in the judicial system," Jackson said. "That's a cause of great concern."
After meeting with Alexander, Jackson spoke with Angela Corey, the state prosecutor who handled both the Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander cases. Corey said Alexander's case is in the appeal phase and out of her jurisdiction, but Jackson urged her to use her power to see that she is released. "Ours was a moral appeal," he said. "This mother has three children." "They need their mother," he added, noting that Alexander had already served the three years originally offered to her by the state in a plea deal. Corey charged Alexander with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon because her husband's two children were in the house. Alexander's case received little attention when she was convicted, but that changed after the Martin killing cast a new spotlight on "Stand Your Ground." Under the law, people fearing for their lives can use deadly force without having to retreat from a confrontation, even when it is theoretically possible. Alexander, a slightly built woman, told police that her husband, Rico Gray, was moving toward her threateningly when she fired into a kitchen wall. He had previously been convicted on a domestic violence charge. Gray's two children were at home, in the living room.
Prosecutors alleged that the shot she fired to scare off Gray endangered both Gray and the children. Alexander filed a "Stand Your Ground" claim, but a judge went on to rule against her because Alexander chose to go back into the house with her gun. A jury took just 12 minutes to find her guilty of three counts. Moreover, the case is under scrutiny because she fired a gun, and is subject to Florida's "10-20-Life" mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines.
Think Trayvon's Record Said Something About His Character? Well, Get A Load Of This.