The 9 Events That Led To Marissa Alexander's "Reverse Trayvon" Controversy
When Marissa Alexander was charged with firing a gun in front of her allegedly abusive husband, she tried to use Florida's Stand Your Ground law as a defense — just like George Zimmerman. But for her, it didn't work. Now some are asking if her case is a "reverse Trayvon" situation.
1. Alexander was charged with aggravated assault for firing a gun in front of her husband and stepsons.
This much is not in dispute: in August 2010, 31-year-old Alexander had a fight with her husband, 36-year-old Rico Gray. During the fight, she fired a single gunshot into the ceiling of her Jacksonville, FL house. She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault.
2. She says it was self-defense.
On the blog Justice for Marissa, she writes, "In an unprovoked jealous rage, my husband violently confronted me while using the restroom. He assaulted me, shoving, strangling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing all while I begged for him to leave." She says that she tried to run away but became trapped in the garage, so she got her gun — which she says is registered and holds a permit for — and went back through the house. Then, she says, Gray shouted, "bitch I will kill you." So "in fear and desperate attempt, I lifted my weapon up, turned away and discharged a single shot in the wall up in the ceiling."
3. He might be telling a different version of events.
A man believed to be Gray told the site Politic365 last week, "Marissa is not portraying herself as she is, I was begging for my life while my kids were holding on to my side, the gun was pointed at me.”
4. He'd been arrested twice for domestic battery, and she had a restraining order against him.
Gray was arrested in 2006 and in 2009. In 2006, charges were dropped, and in 2009, he got probation. After the 2009 arrest, Alexander got a restraining order against him. He claims he had a restraining order against her at the time of the 2010 altercation, but Duval County Clerk records only list one from March 2011, well after it happened.
In a 2010 deposition, Gray admitted to abusing Alexander and multiple other partners: "I got five baby mamas and I put my hand on every last one of them except one." He added, "the way I was with women, they was like they had to walk on eggshells around me. You know, they never knew what I was thinking... or what I might do... hit them, push them."
5. She invoked Florida's "stand your ground" law — the same one George Zimmerman used.
The law states that "a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." Zimmerman cited it as justification for his shooting of Trayvon Martin. Under the law, defendants can seek a hearing with a judge and have their charges dismissed without trial, if the judge agrees they acted in self-defense. However, judge Elizabeth Senterfitt rejected Alexander's motion in to dismiss charges in July 2011, arguing she could have fled back through the house rather than confronting Gray. Alexander says this ruling contradict's the law's provision that attacked parties have "no duty to retreat." She also tried to use the "stand your ground" law as a defense in her jury trial, but was convicted anyway.
6. Her case was prosecuted by the same attorney who charged Zimmerman.
That would be Angela Corey, who was appointed to the Zimmerman case on March 23. She didn't speak publicly about the case until April 11, and some criticized her for not seeking a charge of first-degree murder for Zimmerman. Still, the New York Daily News calls her "one of Florida's toughest prosecutors." She won Alexander's case: Alexander was convicted on all three counts on March 16.
7. The NAACP is behind her.
On April 20, Jacksonville branch president Isaiah Rumlin sent a letter to James Daniel, the judge in Alexander's case, asking him to grant her a new trial. Said Rumlin, "This is a clear case of domestic violence against Marissa. After looking into it and studying the case, this is a clear case of Stand Your Ground as it relates to what she had to do on the date that she did it."
8. Some people are calling her case "reverse Trayvon."
That's the term used by the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation, in a post last week about Alexander's case. Lauren Victoria Burke of Politic365 writes, "it is interesting to consider that George Zimmerman shot and killed someone and was released by police and Marissa Alexander shot no one and could face a lengthy prison sentence." And DemSign of the Daily Kos notes that Zimmerman wasn't the only person to be (at least initially) released under "stand your ground" after shooting a black man. In August 2011, a year after Alexander's arrest, Carl Kroppman, Jr. shot a black man whom he allegedly thought was threatening him with a gun (it turned out to be a can of air freshener). Police decided the shooting was not his fault. DemSign titles a post on Alexander "Stand Your Ground: Just not if you're black or female."
9. Her sentencing hearing was set for today, but has been delayed.
The case's stop-start timeline is just one more thing Alexander's case has in common with the Zimmerman's. A new hearing is set for April 30, and Alexander's lawyers are pushing for a retrial. Alexander's current charges require a sentence of at least 20 years, so that's the kind of punishment she faces if the retrial doesn't happen.