Florida wants to put Marissa Alexander in prison for 60 years

Florida state prosecutor Angela Corey announced she intends to triple Alexander's sentence if convicted

Published March 3, 2014 5:46PM (EST)

Marissa Alexander                   (AP/Lincoln B. Alexander)
Marissa Alexander (AP/Lincoln B. Alexander)

Marissa Alexander could face up to 60 years in prison when her case is retried in July, the Florida Times-Union reports. Florida state prosecutor Angela Corey announced she intends to triple Alexander's sentence if she is able to convict her for a second time.

Alexander was initially sentenced to 20 years -- three separate 20-year sentences that Alexander was ordered to serve concurrently -- for firing what the defense argues was a warning shot in the direction of Rico Gray, her estranged husband, during an alleged domestic violence incident. No one was injured as a result of the single shot, which was fired into a wall. Gray has a documented history of violent abuse against Alexander, and admitted in court that he had previously threatened her life.

After sustained pressure from Alexander’s legal team and a national network of activists, the conviction was overturned, and Alexander now awaits a new trial. As the Times-Union notes, Alexander's conviction was thrown out after the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee "ruled that Daniel made a mistake in shifting the burden to Alexander to prove she was acting in self-defense." The defendant's burden is only to raise a "reasonable doubt" concerning self-defense, according to Judge James H. Daniel.

Corey has said that if Alexander is convicted in July on the three counts of aggravated assault, she will request that Alexander serve the three 20-year sentences consecutively rather than concurrently.

“It’s unimaginable that a woman acting in self-defense, who injured no one, can be given what amounts to a life sentence,” Free Marissa Now spokeswoman Helen Gilbert said in a statement on the proposed sentence. “This must send chills down the spine of every woman and everyone who cares about women and every woman in an abusive relationship.”

Alexander's attorney Bruce Zimet told the Times-Union that he intends to argue that the mandatory sentencing invoked in the case is a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, since Alexander was only sentenced to 20 years during the first trial and there is no reason or change of circumstance to justify the increased sentence.

Retired prosecutor and University of Florida law professor George Dekle commented to the Times-Union that the issue may end up before the Supreme Court.

“Prosecutors will say it’s not vindictive, it’s what the case law now says you have to do,” Dekle said. “It will be up to the judge to decide if he agrees with that.”

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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