When Silence is Evil

The entire country has been in an uproar –  rightfully so – about the killing of Trayvon Martin.  The rush to apply Florida’sstand your groundlaw by Florida authorities to explain and justify the actions of accused shooter George Zimmerman has enraged this nation, most especially the parents of young Martin, who want justice in the killing of their son. We are all watching to see how this case pans out.

But there was another case of an individual using the “stand your ground” law, this one a young African-American woman, who did not kill but fired a warning shot to get her physically abusive husband away from her. In this case, unlike the Martin case, it was fairly clear that the woman, Marissa Alexander, was truly defending herself against her husband, but in spite of that, she was accused and convicted of attempted murder. Circuit Court Judge James Daniel sentenced her to 20 years in prison.


Alexander had never been in any trouble; she had never been in jail…and she believed in the justice system. She reportedly did not take a plea bargain that would have had her spend just three years in prison because she said, “I didn’t believe I had done anything wrong.”

Not only did Alexander not actually shoot her husband, but she had filed charges of domestic abuse against him before. In other words, there was a record of his abuse toward her. Her life had been in danger before …and yet, her action of self-defense was ignored. Twenty years in prison, despite a law that is supposed to let people “stand their ground.”

Something is wrong here…including our silence about this case.

I know, from reading books like The New Jim Crow and False Justice that once the justice system makes a ruling, it is extremely difficult to get that decision reversed. But just because such action is difficult does not mean we who see injustice should be silent.

Is it just me, or does this case reek not only of racism but sexism as well? Why is it NOT okay for women who are in abusive relationships to defend themselves? I remember visiting a women’s prison and being amazed at how many women were in jail because they had finally had enough of their husbands beating them to a pulp. Why is it NOT okay for women to defend themselves against abusive husbands, but it is somehow all right for a white man to “defend” himself against even the suggestion of bodily harm by an African-American or Latino man?  In spite of the reports we have had that George Zimmerman was advised by police officers to leave Trayvon Martin alone, he ignored that order and a young, unarmed African-American youth is dead…and the “stand your ground” law is being touted as the law that probably “saved” Zimmerman’s life.


There is no justifiable reason for Marissa Alexander to be in jail for firing a warning shot against her abusive husband. If that is not self-defense, then I am at a loss as to define what self-defense is.  Marissa has an 11-year-old daughter who not only had to witness violence between her parents, but who now has to live her young life without her mother. She also has to grapple with trying to understand why “the law” did not find a way to give justice to her mother.

Marissa has recently been denied a new trial. So, she sits in prison for trying to protect herself.

Something is wrong here…not least of which is our silence about his unfair and unjust case. Our silence is as evil as is the law that put her in jail, and the laws which do little to protect women in cases of domestic abuse.

A candid observation …

7 thoughts on “When Silence is Evil

  1. If you haven’t read it, you’d probably be interested in CrimeDime’s series on this very topic: http://crimedime.com/2012/05/28/marissa-alexander-isnt-really-about-stand-your-ground-part-i/
    She shouldn’t be in prison for this. The prosecutor hounded on the fact that once Ms. Alexander left the house to retreive the gun, it was no longer about acting in a moment of fear, but a calculated decision to cause injury. I disagree, and I’m ashamed the prosecuor is female.
    Florida justice just can’t seem to figure it all out. I left an abuser, and because I did not have a police report, I kept a confidential address, and I requested exchanges occur at or very near a police station…everything I did to protect us was used against me and my abuser has custody of our children. No police reports, no abuse.

    1. The entire Marissa Alexander situation is baffling and troubling. I cannot believe that she got no justice …but so many women who suffer from domestic violence get no justice. This one has me reeling. I do think there ought to be a groundswell of support for Marissa and protest against the judge who sentenced her, or at least against the Florida “justice” system. This is worse than horrible.
      Thank you for reading the piece and commenting.

  2. I have a family member who has been in an abusive marriage for over 20 years…this is sadly a familiar pattern for women who finally take action to protect themselves and their children from a violent spouse or boyfriend. I watched my sister transform from a confident woman to a woman who constantly refers to herself as stupid. She is a college graduate, has a MBA, and is also a CPA. Her abusive husband did not complete high school and has never supported his family. They have three sons. I have seen the bruises on my sister when I have busted her. Marissa should not be in jail and the justice system in Florida needs to interpret and apply the stand your ground law correctly. Was Zimmerman standing his ground? I have never heard of a case where a can of iced tea and a bag of chips put another person in fear of imminent harm!!! Are iced tea and a bag of chips deadly weapons? I think not. Zimmerman was told to leave Martin alone by the police dispatcher…he ignored the dispatcher, followed Martin, and shot him. Zimmerman had a gun. Martin had a bag of chips and a can of iced tea!

      1. Domestic violence is one of the banes of reality all over the world. Gotta find a way to find out why it is so prevalent and then find a way to keep it from happening. Praying for your sister …

  3. This story is truly maddening. If this isn’t a case of racism and/or sexism I don’t know what is. To think that our “justice” system could throw this woman in jail when there were documented cases of abuse AND her husband was not injured but take over a month to even arrest George Zimmerman who KILLED a young black boy simply because he was walking while black is ridiculous. Seriously. The message in all of this to me is that there is no justice in the justice system, and that those who are supposed to protect us are not concerned at all with what’s fair or right.

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