No new trial for woman in Jacksonville "Stand Your Ground" criminal case; judge must give her 20 years

May 7, 2012

Despite the protestors and the national media attention clamoring for reconsideration, a judge denied a new trial to a woman who fired a warning shot to scare the husband she said she feared. The outrage is centered on the 20-year minimum mandatory sentence Marissa Alexander now faces at age 31, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. It took a jury just 12 minutes to convict her of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Duval County. She is accused of firing the gun in the presence of two of her husband Rico Gray's children in the August 2010 incident. The denial of a new trial is not surprising; judges rarely grant those motions and it's a slap in the face to the system build on a trial by a jury of ones' peers. Judges normally let a jury's decision stand. In this case, attorneys argued the testimony of people describing Alexander's fear of Gray was limited incorrectly, the newspaper reported.

The real lesson in the Alexander case is knowing when to cut your losses and take a deal, even if you don't feel you deserve the punishment. Because the state had filed a minimum mandatory sentence notice in this case, any guilty conviction at trial would result in 20 years in prison. Period. Florida's aggressive 10-20-Life gun laws give prosecutors the option of filing for those penalties. The law allows a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence for showing a gun in commission of a Florida felony; 20 years if the gun is fired and life in prison if someone is hit. The state often uses the minimum mandatory as its hammer in negotiations - threatening to pursue it as of way of trying to force the defendant to take the state's offer.

Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney sees it all the time and the Alexander case is a perfect example. The state was offering three years in prison, as late as the week before the trial, the newspaper reported. Those three years could have been reduced to about 30 months, if Alexander had behaved in prison and earned gain time. In many cases, people serve about 85 percent of their sentence. But not in minimum mandatory cases. Gain time does not apply and people must serve the entire sentence - "day for day," as it is referred to inside the legal system. For Alexander, it is understandable why three years would be a difficult pill to swallow. She said she was in fear of her husband - arrested twice and convicted once of a domestic violence against her, according to the newspaper. She probably feels she did nothing wrong and does not want to admit guilt. Again, understandable. But the state holds all the cards in these cases and in some instances it may be best to take the offer and get it over with. With minimum mandatory sentences in Jacksonville, there is no explaining the mitigating factors, no considerations the judge can take in determining the sentence. All decisions have been taken out of the judge's hands. It is risky territory - which is precisely why the state continues to use them to try to pressure a deal.

Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Firm is all too familiar with the state's increased reliance on the mandatory sentences in the 10-20-Life law. There are certainly times where a trial is still the best option - regardless of what is on the table. Our Jacksonville gun crimes attorney will weigh out all of your options, including the worst case scenario if you're convicted, and help you make the best decision under difficult circumstances.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County gun crimes lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.