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Marissa Alexander
You remember Marissa Alexander, of course, the 32-year-old Florida mom sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. As Irin Carmon recounts:
Alexander, who had given birth the week before, testified that after an altercation regarding texts from her ex-husband, she locked herself in the bathroom. Her husband Rico Gray broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her into the door. She ran to the garage, found she couldn’t get the door open, and returned with a gun. When Gray saw the gun, he said, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” Alexander testified that firing the gun into the air as a warning shot was “the lesser of two evils.”
The jury did not accept Alexander's claims of self-defense, and convicted her after 12 minutes of deliberation. Under Florida's 10-20-Life law, she began serving a 20-year sentence because of the use of a gun in her crime.

But today, a unanimous state appellate panel in Florida reversed the conviction. The trial court had instructed the jury that Alexander had to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, but if you recall other noteworthy Florida self-defense claimants you know that's not her burden. Instead, so long as she could put forth a prima facie case of self defense, then it became the prosecutor's burden to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt:

The defendant’s burden is only to raise a reasonable doubt concerning self-defense. The defendant does not have the burden to prove the victim guilty of the aggression defended against beyond a reasonable doubt. “When a defendant claims self-defense, the State maintains the burden of proving the defendant committed the crime and did not act in self-defense.” Montijo v. State, 61 So. 3d 424, 427 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011). “The burden never shifts to the defendant to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, he must simply present enough evidence to support giving the instruction.”
Moreover, the Court explained, Alexander should not have been required to prove that she had been injured by her husband (as a justification for using deadly force in self-defense), since he had not been injured by the shooting.

State Attorney Angela Corey has already pledged that she will retry the case. I don't know whether Alexander is entitled to release in the interim.

Originally posted to Adam B on Thu Sep 26, 2013 at 09:57 AM PDT.

Also republished by Support the Dream Defenders, Trial Watch, Firearms Law and Policy, Black Kos community, Barriers and Bridges, and Daily Kos.

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