Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman whose case generated outrage when she was sentenced to 20 years in prison may end up behind bars for 60 years for the same crime.
The Office of State Attorney Angela Corey will seek to put Marissa Alexander in prison for 60 years, essentially a life sentence, if it succeeds in convicting her for a second time for firing a shot in the direction of her estranged husband and two of his children. Her trial is scheduled to begin on July 28.
Alexander, 33, was previously convicted in 2012 of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Circuit Judge James Daniel under the state’s 10-20-life law. Daniel actually imposed three separate 20-year sentences on Alexander but ordered that they be served concurrently, which meant Alexander would get out in 20 years.
The 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. During jury instructions, Daniel said she must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was battered by her husband.
Alexander’s case drew national attention after she was denied immunity under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, with critics saying the crime Alexander was convicted of didn’t warrant 20 years behind bars. Supporters of Alexander blasted prosecutors Friday for seeking to triple her prison sentence.
“It’s unimaginable that a woman acting in self-defense, who injured no one, can be given what amounts to a life sentence,” said Free Marissa Now spokeswoman Helen Gilbert. “This must send chills down the spine of every woman and everyone who cares about women and every woman in an abusive relationship.”
Seeking 60 years is an incredibly abusive and outrageous action by Corey, Gilbert said.
But Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei, the lead prosecutor in the case, told the Times-Union his office was simply following the sentencing laws of the state of Florida.
The same appeals court that ordered Alexander’s retrial separately ruled last year that when a defendant is convicted of multiple counts under 10-20-life that arose from the same crime, judges must make the sentences consecutive and are not allowed to impose them concurrently.
The law has not changed since Alexander was sentenced in 2012, but courts throughout the state have been struggling to interpret what the Legislature meant when it passed sentencing laws regarding 10-20-life.
The Alexander case inspired the so-called “warning-shot” bill that will be part of the Florida legislative session that begins Tuesday. The proposal, which is expected to pass, would create an exception to the 10-20-life law and prohibit those who fire a warning shot from getting 20 years in prison.