Retrial is Delayed for African-American Woman Facing 60 Years for Firing a Warning Shot

Marissa Alexander is waiting for Florida’s Governor to sign a bill that might free her.

The retrial of Marissa Alexander, the African-American woman convicted for firing a warning shot into the wall to scare off her violent husband, has been moved back until December 1, as a Florida Court awaits action from Governor Rick Scott on the state’s new "Warning Shot Bill"  

Alexander, 33, is out on bond. She faces three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Her previous 20-year conviction (Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing) on the same charges was overturned on appeal.

Alexander’s defense team was seeking a "Stand Your Ground" hearing ahead of her retrial that was slated to begin July 28. Florida’s law grants immunity from prosecution if it is found a person used deadly force out of fear for their life. A prior attempt by Alexander’s lawyers to receive a "Stand Your Ground" hearing was denied.

Alexander’s defense team believes that the Warning Shot Bill has in it provisions that can be applied retroactively.

Alexander, 33, fired a warning shot after being violently confronted by her husband. She was released on bond last last year after an appeals court ruled that the jury in her trial was given flawed instructions. However, Florida State Attorney Angela Corey has gone after Alexander again, and she is seeking up to 60 years in prison in the re-trial, 20 years consecutively for each count. If Alexander were to receive that sentence, she could stay in prison until she is 93.

State lawmakers passed the Warning Shot Bill in March, but Gov. Scott has yet to sign it. Because the law is pending, both the defense and prosecution have sought an extension for the trial. A court decision on whether Alexander can get a Stand Your Ground hearing will be postponed until August 1.

Alexander's is the third high-profile case in Florida where a legal firearm was discharged by someone who later claimed self defense. Two of those cases, George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, who both shot and  killed unarmed black teens, resulted in acquittals on murder charges. 

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor of Alternet who also served as deputy editor of Consumer Reports. He was one of the first journalists to sound the alarm over the extreme dangers of fracking and expanded crude-by-rail transportation. His articles on technology, green cars, energy, water and sustainability have appeared in several publications, including Car and Driver, Playboy, Salon and Raw Story. Twitter: @cliffweathers.