Prosecuted for standing her ground – Racism and sexism in the Sunshine State

Note: Sign the petition calling on Florida Governor Rick Scott to pardon Marissa Alexander. The following is a statement from the Free Marissa Now Campaign:

The political climate created by the George Zimmerman trial has shed light on the opaque imaginations of what some think is a post-racial nation. We are heartbroken for Trayvon Martin’s family, who have demonstrated brave resolve throughout this ordeal and we hold them in our thoughts as we move forward. We send strength to the family of Jordan Davis, another unarmed Black male Florida teen murdered by a white male who claimed Stand Your Ground, and many others who are gearing up for their journey through these same halls of due process. As long as the Florida justice system has a double standard for identifying criminal behavior, it breaches our core right to safety. The Zimmerman case is about the freedom to safely walk the streets without being profiled and pursued as a criminal based on reemerging Jim Crow codes, especially in the south. Paradoxically, this trial has been juxtaposed to the Marissa Alexander case; a black woman who stood her ground in her home to defend herself from domestic violence and was consequently sentenced to twenty years in prison when no one was physically injured by her actions.  The dramatically different outcomes of these cases is a lesson in how the criminal justice system routinely fails to support black people who defend themselves from violence on the streets, in their homes, and from institutions.

The Free Marissa Now Campaign is organizing to win freedom for Marissa Alexander, a proud African American mother of three with an MBA and a survivor of domestic violence. In August 2010, Marissa fired a single warning shot in the ceiling to halt her abusive partner during a life-threatening beating in her home. Marissa’s husband, who has previously landed Marissa in the hospital after beating her, admitted in a sworn statement that he was the aggressor, threatened her life and was so enraged that he did not know what he would do.  Despite the fact that Marissa caused no injuries and has no previous criminal record, and despite the fact that Florida’s self-defense law includes the right to Stand Your Ground, she was arrested by Jacksonville police, charged with aggravated assault, and sentenced to twenty years in the Florida criminal correctional system.

We must take a stand against the criminalization of all survivors of domestic and sexual violence.  Marissa’s case is one of many that shows us how Black women and other marginalized people are especially likely to be criminalized, prosecuted, and incarcerated while trying to navigate and survive the conditions of violence in their lives. Freeing Marissa is a social justice action against intimate partner and systemic violence against all women, and an urgent call for the end of mass incarceration and support for truly transformative solutions to violence.

The Free Marissa Now Campaign is calling for the grassroots community to stand your ground about your right to give voice to this situation and not be complacent. Our hope was to see justice done for the death of young Brother Trayvon Martin, who couldn’t tell his side of the story, and for his family. We grieve deeply with them and for others whose lives have been impacted by violence with no opportunity for redress. We will continue to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to defend themselves without fear of criminalization and to tell their stories. We see this as another defining moment for racial and gender justice that comes on the heels of the rollback in voting rights.

There is justifiable cause for rage and protest of the violence of racism embedded in the Florida criminal justice system. This is not the time to shut down but show up and turn rage into resistance through organized and peaceful protests.  We need to build a movement to stop racist murder and race and sex bias in the courts. We encourage people to use their resources to organize and voices to speak truth to power to create change.

We are standing our ground for peace and justice.  We encourage organizers and survivors to share in our collective power and take action to Free Marissa Alexander!  

By Kirsten Powers, July 19, 2013. Source: The Daily Beast 

Angela Corey is mad ... for all the wrong reasons. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AP

Angela Corey is mad … for all the wrong reasons. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AP

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.

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. [S]he 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. [P]robably 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. [T]he 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.  [S]he 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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