The movement to free Marissa Alexander is fired up. Now that the appellate court has reversed the conviction and Marissa Alexander’s guilty verdict has been officially overturned and thrown out, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and are more determined than ever to free Marissa from prison. Though Marissa has been granted the right to a new trial, Free Marissa Now urges the state to not move forward with a new trial, but to instead DROP THE CASE, dismiss all charges, and free Marissa now. We are mobilizing all concerned individuals and groups to call, write, email or fax State Prosecutor Angela Corey, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Governor Rick Scott to strongly urge them to drop the case.
Beginning on October 11, the ball is in State Prosecutor Angela Corey’s court to move forward on the case or to drop it. This is the crucial period to get the case dismissed. We need to flood Florida with messages to drop the case.
You can start now to spread the word about the letter-writing campaign and collect letters to send in beginning October 11. The campaign will continue for approximately two weeks or until we hear of action one way or the other from Corey’s office. The focus is on Angela Corey, but we also need to push Florida Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to come out publicly for dropping the case.
Office of Attorney General Pam Bondi
State of Florida, The Capitol PL-01, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Phone: 850-414-3300 or 850-414-3990
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Phone: 850-717-9337 or 850-488-7146
Also, because Marissa is now considered innocent unless the state attorney reaches a guilty verdict in a new trial, we strongly urge the court to quickly release her on bail and allow her to return to her three children, family, and community.
But we also wanted to briefly pause to reflect on the appellate court’s ruling itself (download the ruling as a pdf). A few points:
- Stand Your Ground: “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) states that if a person “reasonably believed” that she was in imminent danger of death or harm, then she would be justified to stand her ground and use deadly force if necessary to protect herself. It’s clear that this precisely describes Marissa Alexander’s situation when she fired her warning shot to prevent her abusive estranged husband, who had attacked her and threatened to have her killed, from harming her further. Importantly, no one was injured by Marissa’s warning shot, but the same cannot be said about the case of George Zimmerman, who murdered Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black boy who was walking home, and who was acquitted because of the jury’s application of SYG to his case. Yet, the appellate court upheld the 2012 court decision to deny Marissa Alexander a “Stand Your Ground” defense. The ruling does not assert that the trial judge’s decision to deny a SYG defense was just. In fact, the appellate court declined to reweigh the facts. The decision seems to be that the original SYG hearing was fair in the sense that Marissa had a hearing. However, how could the hearing be fair if the application of the SYG law in the hearing is racially biased?
The court’s decision to not reconsider the SYG ruling in Marissa Alexander’s case appears to be more evidence that the application of Stand Your Ground routinely fails to value the defense of black life. As Trayvon Martin’s family, many other families, and activists move forward to address the Stand Your Ground law and the racist criminal justice system in which it’s embedded, our questions remain: How does race determine who is granted the right to defend their lives and who is constructed as an object of fear? How are domestic violence survivors constantly prevented from standing their ground, whether it’s in their homes, in their communities, or in the courts? Though we are relieved that Marissa Alexander valued her life and stood her ground, we are appalled at all of the profound forces against her. There appears to exist almost no set of facts when a black woman is believed as a credible victim, capable of being in fear for her life or in imminent danger, such that she can compel the court to act and enforce her right to protect herself by granting immunity via SYG.
- Guilty Until Proven Innocent:The appellate court granted Marissa Alexander’s appeal on the basis that the jury in her trial was given instructions that Marissa had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she had acted in self-defense. In other words, the burden of proof was shifted to Marissa Alexander and her legal team, effectively instructing the jury that she was presumed guilty unless she had proven herself innocent.
Of course, the law states that defendants should be presumed innocent unless they are proven guilty by the prosecution, and Marissa shouldn’t have had to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. State Attorney Angela Corey’s office stated that the appeal was granted on a “legal technicality.” However, the court asserted that the jury instruction error was so fundamental that Marissa Alexander was deprived of a fair trial. This is no technicality. The state attorney’s attempt to diminish the fact that Marissa was treated as guilty until proven innocent goes to the heart of this entire nightmare. Black women survivors of domestic violence are often not seen or supported as genuine victims of violence. They are often accused by family and community members, strangers, and institutions of being guilty, either of causing or deserving the abuse they experience, of being too angry or insufficiently docile to be a “real victim,” of being incapable of feeling pain or being injured, of engaging in survival actions that are criminalized or pathologized, or of simply surviving at all. The state’s attorney has treated Marissa Alexander as if she were somehow intrinsically guilty, constantly minimizing the abuse she experienced and blaming her for a situation that was created by her batterer. It is therefore not surprising that the state attorney continues to prioritize punishing Marissa over the importance of conducting a fair trial.
- Movement Building:These failures are precisely why it’s so crucial for anti-violence movements and the movement to free Marissa Alexander to move forward passionately and thoughtfully. The Free Marissa Now Campaign urges everyone to make the connections between race, gender, class and domestic violence; actively reject ideas that justify violence against black women; and create new realities that support ALL survivors of domestic violence, including black women, other women of color, and criminalized survivors. Our goal is to free Marissa from prison, but our path is to name and unravel the dehumanizing conditions of institutional racism and sexism that facilitate Marissa’s and others’ experience of domestic violence, incarceration, and mass incarceration itself.
Free Marissa Now!
TELL THE STATE TO DROP THE CASE.
More organizing resources: http://freemarissanow.tumblr.com/downloads