Woman Who Fired Warning Shot Could Get 60 Years

Marissa Alexander faces triple the original sentence in new trial
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2014 2:10 PM CST
Woman Who Fired Warning Shot Could Get 60 Years
Marissa Alexander, center, walks out of the Duval County Courthouse with her lawyers Bruce Zimet, left, and Faith Gay after a hearing on Friday Jan. 10, 2013 in Jacksonville, Fla.   (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Mack, Pool)

Marissa Alexander, the Jacksonville woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot that injured no one, could now end up serving 60 years instead. Alexander, 33, was initially convicted in 2012 of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; the judge imposed three 20-year-sentences, but ordered them served concurrently. That conviction, however, was thrown out on appeal, because the judge mistakenly shifted the burden of proof to Alexander, saying she had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt she was acting in self-defense against an abusive husband. Now, prosecutors will try Alexander again—and this time they're seeking the 60 years to be served consecutively, the Florida Times-Union reports.

In 2010, Alexander had just given birth days before when she got into a fight with estranged husband Rico Gray, told him to leave, and locked herself in the bathroom, she says; he broke through the door and attacked her. She tried to leave through the garage but the door wouldn't open, so she grabbed a gun and went back into the house; she says she fired when Gray charged her again and threatened to kill her. But prosecutors say the shot went into the wall, not the ceiling, and could have killed Gray or his two children, who were in the house. (Gray has admitted to police he was abusive to his partners, US News & World Report notes.) "It’s unimaginable that a woman acting in self-defense, who injured no one, can be given what amounts to a life sentence," says one activist who supports Alexander. But state attorney Angela Corey's office says it is just following Florida's sentencing laws. The trial starts July 28. (More Marissa Alexander stories.)

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