The recent news that the Florida woman who fired a warning shot to ward off her estranged abusive husband will be retried and may face up to 60 years behind bars if convicted has many questioning whether the state’s self-defense laws are racially biased.
The Jacksonville, Fla., native was convicted in 2012 on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 20 years. The conviction was overturned last year when an appeals court ruled that the trial judge made a mistake in shifting the burden to Alexander to prove she acted in self-defense.
The office of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey confirmed it will seek to put Alexander in prison for 60 years when they retry her.
Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei told the media that the state is simply following sentencing laws. According to Florida’s strict firearm laws, crimes committed with guns require sentences to run consecutively rather than concurrently.
Critics say it’s outrageous to seek triple the original sentence as they retry her on three counts of aggravated assault, saying that the original mandatory minimum 20-year sentence was overly harsh for the 33-year-old mother, who unsuccessfully attempted to use Florida’s “Stand–Your–Ground” law in her defense.
The Free Marissa Now campaign released a statement condemning Corey’s office, saying they believe she has “launched a campaign of escalating punishment of Marissa Alexander to shield herself from charges of mishandling trials and failing to secure guilty verdicts for the murders of Black teens Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin.”
“A 60-year sentence for Marissa Alexander would not only be devastating for her, her children and family, and her community, it would be a decisive blow to the right to self-defense for Black women and all women,” Free Marissa Now leader Aleta Alston-Toure said in the statement. “Incarcerating Marissa Alexander will send a strong message to all survivors that violence against them will be ignored and they instead will be subject to prosecution if they defend their lives.”
While she awaits her retrial, Florida politicians have begun considering legislation that lawmakers say was inspired by Alexander’s case, pushing a bill that would expand the state’s “Stand–Your–Ground” law to include warning shots.
Alexander’s new trial is set to begin July 28.