Marissa Alexander Serving 20-Year Sentence in Failed Stand Your Ground Defense

A case that gained National attention due to two controversial issues; the first, Florida’s stand your ground law which has been under recent scrutiny and the other, Florida’s 10-20-Life gun law statute remains in the headlines.

In the recent George Zimmerman acquittal the stand your ground defense wasn’t raised in the actual trial, but it is believed by some that the jury’s concluding decision was founded on the Judge not providing clear instructions before their deliberations began. This theory demonstrates that some members of the jury may have been led to believe that the law did apply, affecting their final decision of not guilty, with the statute in mind.

In the Marissa Alexander case, the statute was invoked, but the results of a jury that took only 12 minutes to decide her fate returned a guilty verdict, which led to the imposition of a twenty-year sentence under Florida’s 10-20-Life gun law.

A plea bargain of three years in prison was offered by the State Attorney’s Office but Alexander was sure that if a jury heard her story, she would undeniably be acquitted. However, after the court case that was decided in May of last year concluded, the outcome did not go her way.

Alexander, 31, stated that she wasn’t trying to hurt anyone when she fired what she and her family have termed a warning shot in the direction of her husband, Rico Gray, 36, and his two young boys during a fight between the two. According to her version of the story she was fighting back against a man who she claimed was habitually violent to her. She claimed that he choked and punched her on numerous occasions over the past year. It was her belief that she was sheltered by Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law when she fired a gun multiple times into the walls and ceiling where her husband stood.

The stand your ground statute sanctions extensive discretion in the use of deadly force as a defense if an individual believes that their life is in jeopardy or if they are facing the possibility of severe bodily harm.

State Attorney Angela Corey said that the case merited prosecution because the gun was fired in the direction of where two children were present and vulnerable.

Alexander was sure her version of the events were solid, but one key factor that transpired four months after she was released on bail convinced the prosecutor and may have swayed the jury not to believe her story.

After her original arrest, she was released on bail with specific instructions not to make contact with Gray whatsoever. However after her release she went to his residence getting into an argument with him which resulted in him sustaining multiple bruises including a black eye.

According to Alexander’s family, the second incident happened a few days before her newborn baby would have been dropped from the couple’s insurance policy. They maintain that Marissa travelled to Gray’s residence solely to ask him to sign forms that would have kept the policy active for the child. Her family inferred that he attacked her upon her arriving at his house that evening. They provided her medical records resulting from the incident to the Huffington Post periodical, which substantiated that she suffered minor bruising and scrapes on her arm, hand and face, as what they believed was evidence of what transpired at the scene of the incident.

Gray called the police after Alexander left his house, once the altercation had concluded.

Gray’s side of the story claimed that Alexander came over to drop off their daughter, and then asked him if she could spend the night there. When he rejected her offer, she “became enraged and began striking him on the face. Gray then raised his hands, and he yelled out to his sons to call the police,” according to the police report. The police officer that responded to the 911 call noted that Gray’s children substantiated their father’s account of the story.

When Alexander was contacted by the police that evening, she said she didn’t understand why she was being called upon and had an “alibi” for the time period in question, according to their report. Upon examination of Gray, the police found swelling on his face as well as a cut under his left eye. There were no visible injuries primarily found on Alexander but on the way back to jail she said she was feeling light-headed and subsequently became unresponsive. At that point one of the officers said that he “observed that there was a small cut under the suspect’s eye that was not there prior to her being placed in my back seat.”

Alexander was rearrested and this time charged with battery. She pleaded no contest to the new charge and has remained in prison since the new charges were added.

During Court Proceedings State attorney Corey stated that Alexander’s actions; interacting with the man she stated that she was deathly afraid of, and striking him, “didn’t show much of her being remorseful” or “being a peaceful person… “Everybody is still ignoring that she got out on bond and chose to go back over there and hit him a second time… That was kind of an indication of where putting her on probation, where you might have been able to do that before, was off the table since she disregarded a judge’s order.”

Alexander was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and awaits appeal for the twenty-year sentence.

Civil rights leaders were quick to point out that the African-American mother of three was prosecuted principally due to her race. U.S. Representative Corrine Brown, said the sentence, was too severe and Alexander should never have been charged in the first place based on the stand your ground statute.


In the state of Florida, in most cases, being convicted of any charge relating to a firearm will be punished by severe mandatory minimum sentences under Florida’s 10-20-Life gun statute.

If you, a friend or family member is facing charges relating to a firearms offense it is crucial that you secure a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who has experience in these types of prosecutions.

Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.

Mr. Cohen’s practice has recently expanded and he is now a partner in the prestigious law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. Through this partnership, Mr. Cohen can now lead your defense in the New York Metropolitan area in addition to the Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County areas as well as all other jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida
Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2013 edition of “Best Lawyers in America