By Irin CarmonÂ viaÂ msnbc.com
Marissa Alexander, the African-American woman who was sentenced to 20 years for discharging a firearm in Florida despite pleading Stand Your Ground against her husband,will get a new trial. Alexander, 32, said she fired a bullet at the ceiling because she was afraid of her husband. No one was injured. It took 12 minutes for the jury to convict her.
â€śWe reject her contention thatÂ the trial court erred in declining to grant her immunity from prosecution underÂ Floridaâ€™s Stand Your Ground law,â€ťÂ wroteJudge James H. Daniel, â€śbut we remand for a new trial because the juryÂ instructions on self-defense were erroneous.â€ť
Alexander, who had given birth the week before, testified that after an altercation regarding texts from her ex-husband, she locked herself in the bathroom. Her husband Rico Gray broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her into the door. She ran to the garage, found she couldnâ€™t get the door open, and returned with a gun. When Gray saw the gun, he said, â€śBitch, Iâ€™ll kill you.â€ť Alexander testified that firing the gun into the air as a warning shot was â€śthe lesser of two evils.â€ť
The jury rejected her self-defense argument, and instead Alexander wasÂ sentencedÂ under the â€ś10-20-Lifeâ€ť law, which carries a series of mandatory minimum sentences related to gun crimes. The prosecutor in her case was Angela Corey, who also prosecuted George Zimmerman who was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin. After an outcry at the apparent racial double standard in the application of Stand Your Ground, CoreyÂ toldÂ theÂ Washington Post,Â â€śI think social media is going to be the destruction of this country.â€ť
The appeals court judge ruled that the lower court judge improperly put a burden on Alexander to prove that the firing was in self-defense. â€śThe defendantâ€™s burden is only to raise a reasonable doubt concerning self-defense,â€ť Daniel wrote. â€śThe defendant does not have the burden to prove the victim guilty of the aggression defended against beyond a reasonable doubt.â€ť He ordered a retrial. A separate proceeding would determine whether Alexander could be released on bail pending that trial.
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