The publicity surrounding Florida’s now infamous “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law has activists digging through older cases and reinvigorating their push for dropping criminal charges or reducing sentences in Jacksonville and all over Florida. The case of Marissa Danielle Alexander is the second such case to make Jacksonville headlines lately in the wake of the February slaying of Trayvon Martin in Central Florida. Alexander is supposed to be sentenced this week after being convicted last month of three counts of Jacksonville aggravated assault stemming from a domestic incident in 2010, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. She faces a mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison.
Alexander and her now estranged husband had a history of violent disputes, according to the newspaper, which reported two domestic violence arrests in Duval County of her husband in 2006 and 2009 – the second of which led to a conviction. The two got in another heated dispute in 2010, though witnesses say it was Alexander who started this physical confrontation. Alexander claims she was in fear for her life, so she got her handgun, which she has a permit for. When her husband approached her, she fired a warning shot into the ceiling. No one was hurt. Her two stepsons were there at the time, hence the three counts.
A jury found her guilty last month, but the NAACP wrote the judge asking him to delay the sentencing and order a new trial. Local NAACP leaders say Alexander was a victim of domestic violence, feared for her life and was trying to protect herself. Florida’s law, a version of which has since been adopted by about a third of the states in the country, says people do not have to retreat if they are in fear of their life. But if Alexander left the confrontation and came back with a gun, her “Stand Your Ground” claim could be shaky. A judge already denied her Jacksonville “Stand Your Ground” defense and ordered the charges could move forward. The “Stand Your Ground” claims are applicable to the immediate circumstances – not to a pattern of behavior. The challenge for Alexander will be proving the confrontation itself – this confrontation alone – caused her to be in fear for her life enough to fire a warning shot. The attention of the Martin case is giving more scrutiny to cases such as Alexander’s, which is a positive from a criminal defense perspective. Self-defense is a fine line and, especially when minimum mandatory sentences are applied as in Alexander’s case, every opportunity should be granted to see the case from her perspective.
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.