Twenty-year sentence in Jacksonville “warning shot” case now back in national spotlight

National activists are again beating the drum for courts to reexamine the 20-year sentence given to Jacksonville’s Marissa Alexander, a mother who fired a shot into the ceiling because she said she was in fear of her now ex-husband. Alexander was convicted on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Jacksonville and then sentenced to 20 years in prison last year, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, the discharge of the firearm meant Alexander faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison, giving the judge no latitude in the Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, the newspaper reported.

Alexander’s plight has received some scrutiny in the past, but it was revived this week in the wake of the not guilty verdict in the case of George Zimmerman, acquitted of second-degree murder in the death of teen-ager Trayvon Martin. Jacksonville prosecutors were appointed by the governor to handle the Zimmerman case in Sanford, and national criticism of how that case was handled has, right or wrong, opened the door for questions about more decisions by local prosecutors. Prosecutors have long defended their decisions regarding Alexander’s Duval County Gun Crimes Case. The state did not immediately file the minimum mandatory and has said that an offer of three years in prison was on the table until shortly before trial. Once the case went to trial, the state filed the minimum mandatory from the 10-20-Life law in the Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. The threat of a minimum mandatory is often a negotiating tactic the state uses to convince someone to take a plea deal. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, Alexander insisted she was acting out of self-defense and was not guilty of any crime.

Alexander has said that she was in fear of her life and went to the car and got a gun out of her car and fired it into the ceiling. She was facing three Jacksonville felony charges because two children were also present at the time, the newspaper reported. A jury, though, sided with the state and found her guilty on all three charges. Her Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case has been appealed, and she has been transferred from state prison back to the Duval County jail while the appellate matter is pending, the newspaper reported.

In Florida, the 10-20-Life laws dictate punishment in Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases and prosecutors are reluctant to go below those standards. Punishments are as follows:

 10 years for showing a gun during a the commission of a felony  20 years for discharging a firearm in the commission of a felony  Life in prison of someone is shot during the commission of a felony.

Again, the minimum mandatories are not always filed immediately, but almost certainly will be once a trial is inevitable. The risks often go up when a cases goes to trial and Alexander clearly knew what her sentence would be if she was found not guilty. And despite the attention this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case is getting, for now it appears the sentence will stand.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Duval County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.