Stand Your Ground: The Case of Marissa Alexander
Do women have the same protection under SYG?
Unequal treatment under Stand Your Ground
Proponents of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Laws say that the laws are aimed at protecting those who would protect themselves from harm, however, that is not the case in the story of Marissa Alexander. Alexander is facing a mandatory 20 years in jail for firing a warning shot at her husband. Her family has started a petition.
Alexander reported to police that her husband had abused her for years. On the night in question, they had an altercation and she retrieved a firearm. There were children present. Alexander says that her husband lunged at her and she fired the weapon in the air to stop him. She was later arrested for aggravated assault and per her attorney claimed that she was standing her ground.
The DA offered her a plea deal and she refused because she felt that she would be acquitted, but she was convicted. Now, she sits in jail awaiting sentencing. The irony in this case is that Florida has a Battered Spouse Law on the books that may have protected Alexander, but her attorney chose not to use it.
Critics of Stand Your Ground say that the law did not protect Alexander the way it protected so many others, including George Zimmerman. Some say that there are racial overtones because Alexander is African-American. The other issue that is being raised is the right of a woman to protect herself from an abusive spouse. Are women allowed to use these laws to protect themselves or are they going to be held to a different standard?
Alexander did not shoot anyone. No one was injured when she fired her weapon, so why is she in jail? Her case helps legitimize the feeling that Stand Your Ground does not mean equal protection for all citizens to stand up to their attackers or abusers.
Alexander has three children. One of them was born premature and is still in the hospital. Her husband had a history of abusing her. She had a protection order against him. Yet, in the state of Florida, she did not have the right to fire a simple warning shot to stop the abuse. The judge thought that she could have left through a front or back door. Yet, stand your ground says you have no duty to retreat. You have a right to stand your ground against an attacker.
The Stand Your Ground statutes are vaguely written and subjectively used in Florida and Marissa Alexander is in jail for it. We need to rethink these laws and take them off the books if they cannot be changed to protect all citizens. We need justice for Marissa Alexander. Send her back home to her children.