A Jacksonville mother sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of firing a warning shot to ward off an abusive husband will now get a new trial. The 1st District Court of Appeal threw out the 2012 conviction of Marissa Alexander last month, citing an issue with what the jury was told about what to consider regarding self-defense, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. This adds another chapter to the case that has been the subject of protests and rallies by politicians and civil rights leaders who claim the punishment for Alexander did not fit the crime.
Alexander was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Jacksonville for going to the garage and getting a gun, then firing one shot into the ceiling to stop her threatening husband, the newspaper reported. The other two charges were filed because two children were present during the incident. According to Florida’s 10-20-Life law, Alexander faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years if she was convicted in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case – which she was in March 2012. Up to the trial, the state was offering to waive the minimum mandatory sentence for Alexander if she agreed to plead guilty to the Duval County criminal charges and accept three years in prison. She refused and, once she was convicted, the judge had no choice but to give her 20 years. The decision by the appellate court could have wide-ranging effects on Jacksonville Gun Crimes cases, and others in which a self-defense claim could be used.
In every Jacksonville Criminal Defense Case, the jury is read a series of instructions right before they are sent back to deliberate. These instructions include the elements of the charges they are to consider and the standard for conviction on this particular crime. The jury in this Jacksonville Weapon Crimes case was told that in order to find Alexander not guilty by reason of self-defense, that Alexander must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was battered by Gray and that’s why she felt she was in imminent danger and got the gun. The appellate court ruled burden of proof should have been on the prosecution to prove Alexander was not acting in self-defense. It’s a subtle point, but one that can be essential going forward with self-defense claims. The language used to the jury in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case is fairly standard and will now require a change to stay in accordance with the ruling. And you can bet appellate attorneys are looking at other Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases to see if a similar statement was made to the jury that could be brought up in hopes of getting the conviction tossed. Now that there’s an opportunity for all parties to reconsider their decision, including Alexander on going to trial with a 20-year sentence hanging over her head, it will be interesting to see how negotiations and this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case play out.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville 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.