Woman Sentenced to 20 Years for Firing Warning Shot Gets a New Trial

A Florida appeals court ordered a new trial for Marissa Alexander after she was convicted of firing a shot during a dispute with her ex-husband.

Posted: 09/26/2013 12:58 PM EDT
Marissa Alexander

(Photo: Courtesy Florida State Attorney's Office)

A Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot into a wall during an attack by her husband has been granted a new trial by an appeals court in the state.

In granting Marissa Alexander a new trial, the judge in the 1st District Court of Appeals said that the lower court judge had acted improperly in instructing the jury.

Alexander had sought to invoke Florida’s controversial "Stand Your Ground" Law, which allows citizens to use deadly force if they feel their lives are in imminent danger. However, she was not allowed to use that law in her defense.

“We are very pleased by the ruling of the court in granting Ms. Alexander a new trial,” said her lawyer, Kevin M. Cobbin, in an interview with BET.com. “And we’re looking forward to that process.”

The conviction and sentencing of Alexander had been roundly criticized throughout the country as reflecting the underside of a double standard in the application of the "Stand Your Ground" Law.

Many civil rights advocates said that Alexander, an African-American woman, had been treated less favorably by Florida’s judicial system than white residents who might have been in similar circumstances.

“I think everyone has always viewed what happened to her as an injustice,” Cobbin said. “And we’re glad it was recognized. It still is going to be a long process. I think no one will be happy until Ms. Alexander is home again with her family.”

Alexander’s sentence in the 2010 trial has been widely criticized. The 32-year-old mother said she fired a shot at the ceiling because she was afraid of what her husband might do to her during an altercation where she said he was threatening her.

“We reject her contention that the trial court erred in declining to grant her immunity from prosecution under Florida’s 'Stand Your Ground' law,” Judge James H. Daniel wrote in his opinion. “But we remand for a new trial because the jury instructions on self-defense were erroneous.”

During that trial, Alexander, who had given birth the week before the incident, testified that she had received threatening texts from her ex-husband. She said he pushed through the door and grabbed her by the neck, pushing her against the door. She added that he had threatened to kill her right before she fired the shot.

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