Justice on the table builds steam under Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law protests

Lys Anzia – WNN Justice

An actiivist rally supports in Oakland, California supports U.S. prisoner Marissa Alexander
On July 20, 2013 an activists rally in Oakland, California (U.S.) supports African-American mother and prisoner Marissa Alexander who has been sentenced to 20 years incarceration in what she says was an act of “self-defense” under Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law. In her case Alexander was denied the use of the Law in the State of Florida  in spite of her claim that she felt she was in imminent danger.  Image: Steve Rhodes/Flickr

(WNN/DN) Jacksonville, Florida, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: Amy Goodman with Democracy Now covers issues of justice in the State of Florida (U.S.) and the case for Marissa Alexander as she interviews an attorney and a civil rights advocate. Marissa Alexander, the African-American imprisoned mother who is currently marking her days on a 20 year prison term for firing a handgun in what she describes as a “warning shot” pointed in the direction, but away, from her abusive husband is working in hopes of appealing her case. Describing the ongoing pressures of domestic violence in her home and what she thought were her legal rights under the 2012 ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law in Florida, Alexander worked with an attorney who called up the the Law that legally allows someone who feels threatened under “fear of death or great bodily harm” to commit actions against their assailant with a “justifiable use of force.”

But Alexander was not allowed by the judge during her time in court to use the legal protections she had hoped for in Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law. After only 12 minutes of courtroom deliberation Marissa received choices that ended in her lengthy sentence. Her case in Florida seems to point strongly to the actions inside Florida’s courtrooms with what Adam Cohen with Time magazine has now defined as “a travesty of justice.”

In a recent July 2013 outcry over the Florida case in what Daniel Trotta and Bill Cotterell of Reuters News called the case of an “unarmed black teenager” known as Trayvon Martin, the wide acquittal of Martin’s killer under George Zimmerman’s outline of self-defense has caused civil rights activists around the United States to take up the call for legal rights and law reform following the Trayvon Martin case, as well as the Marissa Alexander case.

Misapplication of the Law is on the table now as it is being discussed in households and news media rooms across the U.S. On the 50th anniversary Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous march on Washington on August 24, 2013, rights activists plan a large rally in the U.S. capital city against what they call “legal injustice.”

Searching to dig deeper to expose the truth of the Marissa Alexander case, Democracy Now executive producer and host Amy Goodman talks with criminal defense attorney Seema Iyer, along with civil rights advocate Aleta Alston-Toure, who has personally visited Marissa Alexander inside prison. Alston-Toure is also the organizer for the Jacksonville, Florida branch of the ‘New Jim Crow Movement’, a growing U.S. civil rights organization that took part in the recent five day126 mile ‘Walk for Dignity’ rally, a memorial march for Trayvon Martin that brought civil rights organizations and advocates throughout the South to Sanford, Florida, the town where Martin was killed.

Jurors in the case of Trayvon Martin say they had no choice but to let George Zimmerman go on all murder charges because of Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law. Martin’s parents, along with civil rights advocates throughout the State of Florida and beyond, are now working to push the Florida’s State legislature to narrow the definition of self-defense under Florida’s innocuous misaligned application of the Law.

During the initial November 22, 2010 deposition of Marissa Alexander’s husband Rico Gray used derogatory epithets for his wife. He was questioned about violent acts that included breaking down a bathroom door where Marissa had fled to escape him. Asking Gray: Did you put your hands around her neck? he answered, “Not that particular day. No.” 



AMY GOODMAN: We turn to the growing protests around another Florida shooting case, which had a different outcome from the case of George Zimmerman. It’s Marissa Alexander, 31 years old, African-American mother of three, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she maintains was a warning shot at her abusive husband. Alexander had turned down a plea bargain that would have seen her jailed for three years. She insisted she had been defending herself when she fired a shot into a wall near her husband, and she attempted to use Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in her defense. But in March 2012, the jury convicted her, after only 12 minutes of deliberation. She was sentenced to 20 years behind bars under a Florida law known as “10-20-Life” that carries a mandatory minimum for certain gun crimes regardless of the circumstance. The case against her was argued by Angela Corey, the same prosecutor in charge of the case against George Zimmerman.

We’re joined now by one of the march coordinators, Aleta Alston-Toure, founder of the New Jim Crow Movement in Jacksonville, Florida. She’s been organizing on behalf of Marissa Alexander. She visited her in jail, has written to her extensively. She’s joining us by Democracy Now! video stream from Dickerson Community Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, where their march is now.

It’s great to have you with us. Explain this case, why it means so much to you, the case of Marissa Alexander, Aleta.

ALETA ALSTON-TOURE: Well, the case means so much to me because this is truly—Zimmerman got away with murder. And we’re trying to say, through the Walk for Dignity, that the shift now is from a legal crisis to a human crisis. And that’s because the decades of the prison crisis is now out of hand. It’s totally out of hand. We looked in the past at those that said, “I am a man,” and now we’re saying, “I am human.” We are trying to right now just make a statement that we’re taking action. We’re taking action by walking together as organizations, as youth, to do something together to change those things. And the two demands that we have is the resignation of Angela Corey, clearly, because she is profiting. Her career is to lock people up. She is a politician. And we clearly are saying also that we want to have the release of Marissa Alexander. And enough is enough.

AMY GOODMAN: Quotes—Aleta, the quotes are astounding. Angela Corey complained to The Washington Post of the online agitation like yours to free Marissa Alexander, saying, “I think social media is going to be the destruction of this country.” So, let me read from The Daily Beast, which says, “No, it’s not Alexander’s abusive husband Rico Gray—who said in his deposition, ‘I got five baby mammas, and I [hit] every last one of them except for one’—that makes Corey see red. What really fries her bacon,” this is The Daily Beast, “is the idea that anyone questions her overzealous prosecution of a battered woman acting in self-defense.” Could you respond to this, Seema Iyer? You’re an attorney.

SEEMA IYER: Yeah, I could respond all day long to Angela Corey, and I’m sure that Aleta and both you remember Angela Corey’s statements after the Zimmerman verdict. It was tantamount to accepting an Oscar Award, and she was thanking her cast and crew.

AMY GOODMAN: And when I was watching—

SEEMA IYER: She was so glib.

AMY GOODMAN: —I was so confused. I said, “Isn’t this the woman that brought the second-degree murder charge against George Zimmerman?”


AMY GOODMAN: She sounded like she was part of the defense team.

SEEMA IYER: And that she just lost—that she just lost a case. And she was just enamored with her team, and that’s all she focused on, as opposed to the victim and the victim’s family. And what Aleta is saying is a very interesting concept, the concept of the prosecutor being a politician, or what under the law says the prosecutor’s duty is, and that is to be a minister of justice. And there are many prosecutors across this country who do ride that line. And that is, some cases need to be prosecuted, some people do need to be locked up, and some cases need to be dismissed.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is—but she gets 20 years in prison. She was estranged from her husband, Rico Gray, and had a restraining order against him, even though they had had a baby together just nine days before. Aleta, we only have a minute. What more would you want to say as you are on this march from Jacksonville to Sanford? Is there any word on appeal that this case will—will be thrown out, that she will be freed?

ALETA ALSTON-TOURE: Well, you know, we’re closing the gaps. We want to close the gaps of those that cause victims to be, you know, lost in the system. And to do that, we’ve really got to look at the criminalization of women. Beth Richie wrote a book called “Arrested Justice.” And right now we know that we’ve got to get the anti-domestic violence and the sexual violence groups to know what it is the impact of Stand Your Ground legislation means when we say, “I am human.” And we do know that this will have to have justice, and we will be able to see Marissa, because this is out of control, again, because of the decades of the prison crisis and because of this thing called slavery by another name. It’s intentional disregard of the law. It’s deliberate indifference. And that’s—

AMY GOODMAN: Aleta, I want to thank you for being with us.

ALETA ALSTON-TOURE: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Aleta Alston-Toure, founder of the New Jim Crow Movement in Jacksonville, Florida, has met with Marissa Alexander in jail, writes to her. They are ending up, the group of protesters, in Sanford tomorrow for a Trayvon memorial. Seema Iyer, thanks so much for being with us, as well. That does it for the show.

SEEMA IYER: Thank you.


Human rights journalist Lys Anzia is also the Executive Editor for WNN – Women News Network. In addition to WNN, Anzia’s work can also be seen in publications that include Vital Voices, Truthout, Alertnet, UNESCO, The Guardian News, UN Women and Thomson Reuters Foundation, among many others.


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No part of the introductory text and news analysis in this WNN article release may be used or reproduced in any way without prior permissions from WNN. The video and video transcript in this release has been produced and provided by Democracy Now with Amy Goodman.