Marissa Alexander, the Florida mother whose case became a rallying cry for anti-racism activists and survivors of domestic violence, was released today after three years of incarceration.
Alexander had faced up to 60 years behind bars for firing a single shot near her abusive husband, unable to convince a jury she had feared for her life. A hearing Tuesday confirmed the terms: Having pleaded guilty to assault in exchange for credit for time served, she will be subject to two years of electronic monitoring and house arrest, except for approved appointments and employment.
Circuit Court Judge James Daniel acknowledged that the case had drawn national attention but claimed his decision was “not based on any public opinion of any larger issue of public interest or social concern, but on the specific facts of the case.”
Alexander’s case has long sparked outrage about the unequal application of the law for both black Americans and women. Alexander was prosecuted by Angela Corey, who was also the prosecutor in the trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the February 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. Corey did not appear at Tuesday’s hearing.
“We are thrilled that Marissa will finally be reunited with her children, her family, and her community,” said Sumayya Coleman, co-lead of the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign. “Today’s hearing revealed that Alexander intends to attend school to become a paralegal and she is a wonderful mother to her children who urgently need her. Amazingly, the State continued their campaign of punishment by trying to add two more years of probation.” But the state didn’t get its way.
In November, Alexander pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault with a weapon in exchange for credit for time served. A second trial had been planned for December, when Corey had planned to seek a 60-year sentence, triple the 20-year sentence Alexander got in her first trial.
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign and The Monument Quilt wrote on Facebook that “350 quilt squares containing stories from survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault will blanket the Duval County Courthouse lawn to let Jacksonville and the world know Marissa is NOT ALONE.” A fundraiser on Alexander’s behalf exceeded its goals, raising $58,297 from 1,122 backers on the site GoGetFunding.
“We have always believed that forcing Marissa to serve even one day in prison represents a profound and systemic attack on black women’s right to exist and all women’s right to self-defense,” the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign said in a statement after Alexander’s plea deal.
The incident in question took place in 2010, nine days after Alexander, now 34, gave birth to a daughter. Alexander testified that her estranged husband, Rico Gray, had physically abused her several times and that on that day, he threatened to kill her. No one was injured, but a jury convicted her in about 12 minutes.