Caribbean Fever - Your ONLY destination to all things Caribbean and more
A Florida woman originally sentenced to 20 years behind bars for firing a warning shot to scare off her abusive husband and two stepsons, has been released from jail to spend the remainder of her two year sentence on house arrest.
Mother-of-three Marissa Alexander, 34, had claimed self-defense in her originally trial and her tough sentence was highlighted a year later as an example of the unfairness of Florida's Stand Your Ground law after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin in 2013.
On Tuesday Alexander was sentenced to the 1,095 days she has already served in jail after pleading guilty to three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as part of a plea agreement for the 2010 shooting.
Free at last: Marissa Alexander walks by her dad Raoul Jenkins and is surrounded by her legal team and supporters after her sentencing in Jacksonville, Florida on Tuesday
She also received two years of house arrest.
Applause erupted in the courtroom and once she was outside of the courthouse, Alexander read the following statement: 'Today, after the sentence given by Judge Daniel, my family and I will be able to move on with our lives.
'Although the journey has been long and there's been many difficult moments, I could not have arrived here, where I am today, without the thoughts, many thoughts and many prayers of so many people who voiced their support and encouragement.
'Words can never express my gratitude for those who stood beside me, including my children and family. I am also grateful that Judge Daniel approached this case with such care and diligence.'
The 34-year-old had faced 60 years if convicted at trial because of Florida's minimum-mandatory-sentencing law pertaining to firearm use.
The jury at her first trial found her guilty after deliberating for just 12 minutes.
The verdict was thrown out after a judge ruled the trial court incorrectly required Alexander to prove she was abused by her husband.
Marissa Alexander, pictured in court on Tuesday, had claimed self-defense after prosecutors say she fired a gun at her estranged husband and his two sons, has been released from prison as part of a plea agreement for time served
For the next two years Alexander must wear a GPS ankle monitor and will only be allowed to leave her home to go to work, job interviews, church, family medical and dental appointments, and to visit her children's schools. She'll have to get a judge's permission to do anything else.
'It's hard to get a job, it's hard to get housing, it's hard to qualify for anything. Her life has been destroyed for this,' supporter Denise Hunt told News4JAX.
Alexander’s case had drawn criticism from civil rights groups concerned about self-defense laws and mandatory minimum sentencing rules, but it received little attention outside north Florida until the Zimmerman case.
Although no one was injured in Alexander's case, the court gave her a 20-year prison sentence under the state's mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines because she had fired a gun during the assault.
A state appeals court ruled in September that Alexander, who is black, deserved a new trial because the judge failed to properly instruct the Jacksonville, Florida jury about her self-defense argument. She was convicted in May 2012.
Marissa Alexander's tough sentence was highlighted as an example of the unfairness of Florida's Stand Your Ground law after George Zimmerman, right, was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, left, in 2013
Zimmerman was arrested for killing Trayvon Martin in 2012 and was acquitted of murder and manslaughter in July 2013.
Under the so-called Stand Your Ground clause which was added to Florida's self-defense law in 2005, people who use deadly force to defend themselves from serious injury - rather than retreating to avoid confrontation - can be immune from prosecution.
Zimmerman never sought immunity under Stand Your Ground, instead relying on a standard self-defense law.
Alexander, who had never been arrested before, said she fired a bullet to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her.
No one was hurt, but the judge in the case said he was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison after she was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Alexander's Stand Your Ground claim was rejected because she left the house during the confrontation to retrieve a gun from her car, returning to fire a shot near her husband Rico Gray's head.
For the next two years Alexander must wear a GPS ankle monitor and will only be allowed to leave her home to go to work, job interviews, church, family medical and dental appointments, and to visit her children's schools
A slightly built woman who stands 5 feet 2 inches, Alexander said her 245-pound husband was about to attack her when she fired into a kitchen wall during the August 2010 incident. He had previously been convicted of domestic violence for attacking her.
Prosecutors said the shot endangered Gray. At the time, Alexander had an active restraining order against her husband and she carried a concealed weapons permit.
State Attorney Angela Corey, who oversaw the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, has stood by the handling of Alexander's case.
Corey said she believes that Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.
'I look forward to the full-time challenge of getting my two teenagers through high school and into college, as well we preparing my 4-year-old daughter for nursery school. My goal is to continue my education beyond my master's degree and to continue my professional career,' said Alexander in her statement following Tuesday's release.
'Also, I will continue to learn lessons from the events of the past, but I will not live in the past. At the age of 34, life is too short and there's too much I have to accomplish in the years ahead. It's my hope and prayer that everyone associated with this case will be able to move on with their lives.'