The entire country has been in an uproar – rightfully so – about the killing of Trayvon Martin. The rush to apply Florida’s “stand your ground” law 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 …