Stand Your Ground back in the spotlight

4:47 AM, Apr 18, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (FirstCoastNews.com) -- Stand Your Ground is back in the spotlight in Jacksonville.

A Florida woman is behind bars, looking at 20 years in prison, but her family said she never should have been arrested in the first place.

"She did what she had to do to live, and I believe if she didn't do that, my sister wouldn't be sitting in jail today, she would be sitting in a coffin," said Helena Jenkins, Marissa Alexander's sister.

While Jenkins fights to get her out of jail, she realizes it could have been worse.

Marissa Alexander was convicted on three counts of aggravated assault after firing a warning shot at her ex-husband inside their home in 2010.

"No one was harmed, and it did what it was supposed to do," said Jenkins.  

Alexander had already taken out a protective order against her ex-husband earlier that year when he was arrested for physically abusing her.

So when a fight started in their master bathroom, Alexander told police she feared for her life.

According to court documents she ran to the garage to get her registered handgun.

But instead of leaving, she returned to the kitchen and fired a single shot into the ceiling with her ex-husband and his two small children in the room.

"There wasn't a way for her to leave out of the house," Jenkins said.

"There is no duty to retreat. Even though she did try to leave, there is no duty to retreat," said Marissa's first husband, Lincoln Alexander Jr.

Alexander Jr. said she confided in him about the physical abuse in her second marriage, and how she felt she had no other choice that day but to fire her gun.

"She felt like she had the right to stand her ground," he said.

Alexander's attorney filed a Stand Your Ground motion before the trial, but the judge dismissed the defense.

"The defendant had split seconds to decide if she was in fear for her life and ultimately the judge found that there were other things she could have done like leave the residence through a front door or a back door," said defense attorney Jesse Dreicer.  

Dreicer did not work on her case, but said under Florida law, after Stand Your Ground was dismissed and she was convicted, Alexander is looking at a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years.

"The judge has no discretion to look into what she might have been thinking," he said.

In a phone interview, Assistant State Attorney Nick Lake said the state offered Alexander a plea deal, but she refused.

Lake said after her trial, a jury of her peers decided she did not have the right to react to domestic violence, with her own act of domestic violence.

"To this day she is being punished for considering the life of somebody who didn't consider hers," said Jenkins.

Alexander's pre-sentencing hearing is on Monday, April 23.

Her lawyer is asking for a retrial.

First Coast News

Kaitlyn Ross, First Coast News

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