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Marissa Alexander pleads self-defense after firing ‘warning shot’ at husband

By Reuters
Friday, May 16, 2014 12:28 EDT
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By Susan Cooper Eastman

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) – Attorneys for a north Florida woman facing trial for allegedly firing a gun at her estranged husband went to court on Friday to ask a judge to drop all charges against the mother of three on self-defense grounds.

Marissa Alexander, 33, was initially convicted in 2012 after firing what she described as a warning shot into the kitchen wall of her home in Jacksonville, and was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Her conviction was overturned on appeal but prosecutors are seeking a retrial in July.

Alexander said she fired her gun in self defense to stop an attack by her husband Rico Gray. Under the state’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, a person can use deadly force if they have a reasonable fear that they are in danger of death or serious injury.

The case garnered national and international attention following the acquittal last year on self-defense grounds of former neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Women’s groups rallied to Alexander’s cause, arguing she was a battered woman who had defended herself against a husband with a history of abuse.

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson visited her in jail and more than 300 demonstrators marched through downtown Jacksonville asking that she be released from jail.

Prosecutors are expected to argue today that Alexander’s Stand Your Ground motion should be rejected because she argued and lost a similar claim before her first trial in 2012. Alexander’s attorney Bruce Zimet plans to introduce new evidence that wasn’t part of the first hearing.

Alexander’s case could be affected by a bill passed by the state legislature last month that expands the stand your ground defense to include warning shots, dubbed “Marissa’s Law” by her supporters.

Florida Governor Rick Scott hasn’t signed the bill yet.

Alexander faces three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the 2010 incident because her husband and his two young sons were in the home when she fired the gun.

After the confrontation began in the couple’s bedroom, Alexander fled into the garage, retrieved her gun from a car and returned to the house, pointing it at Gray.

At the prior Stand Your Ground hearing, a judge ruled that if she had truly feared for her life, she would not have returned to the house.

(Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

[Gun via Shutterstock]

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