A Florida woman who claimed to be a victim of abuse, yet sentenced to 20 years behind bars for allegedly firing a warning shot during a dispute with her then husband, was released on bond just in time for Thanksgiving.
Marissa Alexander was released Wednesday night with bond set at $200,000 and must remain under house arrest as she awaits a new trial. It took just 12 minutes for a jury to convict Alexander, a mother of three, of aggravated assault in 2012. The conviction of Alexander, who is black, sparked outrage and cries of a racial double standard in light of the exoneration of George Zimmerman, for the death of Trayvon Martin.
Alexander unsuccessfully tried to invoke Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law as the same state's attorney office and prosecution team from Duval County who unsuccessfully worked to put Zimmerman behind bars told the court that she did not act in self-defense.
Alexander was granted a new trial in September after an appellate judge ruled that jury instructions handed down during her trial were wrong. The instructions from her original trial included one that said Alexander had to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that she was acting in self-defense, and that self-defense only applied if the victim suffered an injury, which her husband had not.
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In a statement the Duval County state attorney office wrote, "The SAO will continue to seek justice for our two child victims and their father who were endangered by the shot the defendant fired at them."
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Alexander, whose lawyer could not be reached for comment, testified that, on Aug. 1, 2010, her then husband, Rico Gray Sr., questioned her fidelity and the paternity of her 1-week-old child.
She claimed that he broke through a bathroom door that she had locked and grabbed her by the neck. She said she tried to push past him but he shoved her into the door, sparking a struggle that felt as if it went on for an "eternity."
Afterward, she claimed that she ran to the garage and tried to leave but was unable to open the garage door, so she retrieved a gun, which under Florida law she legally owned.
Once inside, she claimed, her husband saw the gun and charged at her "in a rage" saying, "B***h, I'll kill you." She said she raised the gun and fired a warning shot into the air because it was the "lesser of two evils."
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The jury rejected Alexander's self-defense claim.
Prosecutors argued that Alexander, who had not been living in the home for two months leading up to the shooting, provoked the incident, and that there was no proof the garage door was broken, Alexander's rationale for not leaving the altercation.
Duval County states attorney Angela Corey offered her a three-year plea deal in her first trial, but that was rejected.