A Florida mother of three fired a warning shot at her husband after an argument escalated. According to a sworn deposition, Marissa Alexander’s husband Rico Gray got belligerent after he found text messages to her ex. “The two were already estranged – according to her father, Alexander had been living at her mother’s since the birth of the couple’s daughter nine days earlier, and Gray, a long-haul trucker, said he spent the night before in his tractor-trailer. Gray began calling her names, saying “If I can’t have you, nobody going to have you,” and blocking her from exiting the bathroom.” That’s when things got sticky . . .

Alexander managed to get past Gray and retrieved a gun from her car. From cbsnews.com:

“Gray told prosecutors in the deposition that Alexander came back into the house holding the weapon and told him to leave. He refused, and what happened next is somewhat unclear. In his deposition, Gray said “she shot in the air one time,” prompting him and the children to run out the front door. But when Gray called 911 the day of the incident, he said “she aimed the gun at us and she shot.””

Gray has a history of violence with Alexander. But a judge rejected her attorney’s request for immunity under Florida’s stand your ground law.

According to the judge’s order, “there is insufficient evidence that the Defendant reasonably believed deadly force was needed to prevent death or great bodily harm to herself,” and that the fact that she came back into the home, instead of leaving out the front or back door “is inconsistent with a person who is in genuine fear for her life.”

Alexander’s case was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the Florida State’s Attorney who is also prosecuting George Zimmerman. Alexander was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and because she discharged a firearm during the incident, the case fell under Florida’s “10-20-life” law, enacted in 1999, which mandates a 20-year sentence for use of a gun during the commission of certain crimes.

Corey, who ran on a platform of getting tough on “gun crime”  offered a 3-year plea bargain for Alexander pleading guilty to aggravated assault. Alexander refused that deal. Corey asserts that Alexander shot out of anger, not fear, and in so doing endangered others in the house and committed a gun crime.

Another wrinkle in this case is Florida’s mandatory sentencing laws. Neither the judge nor the jury saw the incident as self defense, so the conviction carried with it a minimum 20 year sentence.

“You can’t shoot a gun at people,” says Corey. “It ricocheted from the wall to the ceiling, but what if it had hit someone?”

Alexander’s case is bringing scrutiny to mandatory minimum sentences, which Stone says “take discretion out of judges’ hands” and essentially hand that power to prosecutors, who already decide which charges to bring. Corey, for example, could have charged Alexander with straight aggravated assault, instead of adding the gun charge, but she told Crimesider that once Alexander rejected the plea deal, she felt it was her duty to charge according to the law.

As Corey put it, “She discharged a gun to kill them, and she has to answer for that.”

Without being on the jury and hearing all the evidence, it’s hard to figure this one out.  Warning shots are not the act of someone in fear for their life. Self defense training dictates that the gun stays in its holster until and unless life is in danger, and then it is three rounds center of mass quick as you can. On the other hand, a warning shot might be an act of someone struggling with the idea of killing someone – even an abuser.

Does the prosecutor really want to send a message that if Gray had been shot dead by Alexander, she might be a free woman? Does the warning shot establish a different state of mind – one of anger rather than fear?  How does one guarantee that when you are fearful you are not angry?

Discharging a firearm around others is a serious matter, but I can’t see sending a woman to jail for three years, much less 20. If I were a prosecutor and the only choice I had in this situation was three years or a walk, I’d have real trouble going for three years. It may not be just to allow someone to get away with an unsafe discharge of a firearm, but the injustice of three years outweighs the injustice of no prosecution.

69 Responses to Warning Shot Costs Florida Woman 20 Years

      • You’re cute. You’re like the guy who swings his arms wildly while approaching, saying “WATCH OUT OR MY ARMS WILL HIT YOU” and then says it’s the victim’s fault for not moving.

        A bad plea deal shouldn’t be taken, and a bad law shouldn’t be kept. No one is denying the reality of the situation, merely the appropriateness.

      • She clearly didn’t think she did anything wrong… if I hadn’t done anything wrong I wouldn’t take it either.

  1. When are people going to figure it out. If you want to be found not guilty in Florida you need to be white, female, somewhat attractive, have killed your daughter, put duct tape around her head and then dump her in the woods in a garbage bag. Not guilty. Try to protect yourself / family, hello prison.

    • I’ll just state for the record that twelve people, after listening to the everything the State could throw at her for six solid weeks, decided to find Casey Anthony not guilty of all the charges you mention.

    • That’s it! But you shoot a young boy on the his own street for “walking while black” after the police said CLEARLYdon’t do that…no charge! Ridiculous!!

      • Yes, Zimmerman was found not guilty, and now our skewed “Just-us” Department is going to try to get him on Civil Rights Abuse charges. Yet nothing about the four black kids who doused the 13 year old white boy with gasoline and set him on fire. Or the 6 black guys who beat down the white guy for his stuff. Or the three black kids who beat down the other white kid for his tennis shoes. What about THEIR civil rights? Oh, yeah; I forgot–white folks no longer HAVE civil rights in your “Progressive” Amerika…

        • I’m pretty sure justice was handed down heavy on the teenagers too for beating on a white person. Blacks don’t get justice when the crime is against them. This black woman is in jail for protecting her family from the man whole held her hostage in her bathroom and told her ” if I can’t have you nobody will”. So she fired a warning shot and she got 20 years!!! This system is

  2. While 20 years is excessive, warning shots are a bad idea. You don’t know where those bullets are going, and they could very well take the life of an innocent. Guns are lethal force and if you’re threatened with serious bodily harm or death, you’re justified in using them. You’re never justified in purposely sending a round off in a random direction.

  3. as I’ve said before, black+woman=double minority=double standard. Even in the 21st frickin’ century. Can’t wait to hear the Zimmerman verdict. What sad is that an infant has to grow up without it’s mother. Just crazy…

    • Is it bad form to point out that women outnumber men by about 4 million in the US? Or has ‘minority’ been re-defined again and I didn’t get the memo?

    • just because women outnumber men doesn’t mean they have equal access or are viewed and treated as equals to men. I won’t even bother elaborating on the issue of race….

  4. “Hello Florida?….Yes this is The Rest of the Country. Please tuck in your shirt, your Racism is showing.”

    So L’see.
    – She was confronted with a person that was threatening her.
    – A person with a history of violent abuse.
    – She was in her own home.
    – She didn’t kill anyone.

    Those facts let Prosecutor Angela Corey to believe this woman deserves to be in jail for 20 years. Wow.

    Angela Corey is Insane. Purely batshit insane.

    • Twenty years may be excessive, but if you point a gun at someone and fire a round, that’s assault with a deadly weapon. If you do it after leaving the house and coming back, it’s attempted murder. When you fear for your life, your ethical, personal, and legal responsibility is to continue living, not to end the other person’s life. Once you are safe, if you voluntarily re-enter the danger zone, you are now an aggressor. And even if she didn’t point the gun at him, you NEVER fire warning shots. You pull a gun when the only way to continue your own or a loved one’s life is to end another. Never for any other reason. The gun doesn’t even come out until you have made the decision to kill. She shouldn’t be serving twenty, but she should be serving one.

      As a sidenote, she broke Rules 2 and 4.

      • She was in a closed garage and could not find the remote. She attempted to leave first but could not get out he was blocking the exits. She never got a chance to leave the ex even said he was in the wrong and hes still a free man.

        • Yeah yeah yeahm that’s what she said, but the jury didn’t buy it. She also testified that she went to get in her car, but re-entered the home because she’d forgotten her keys. So tell me, if she didn’t have a remote, how the hell was she going to get her car out of the garage? Instead, and by inference, I think the jury believed she went out to her car to fetch her gun, went back into the house to chase him out, and fired a shot to move things along. Sorry, that’s just not self defense.
          And if you don’t like the sentence–undoubtedly enacted by a conservative legislature on some “tough on crime” program– complain to the legislature. As noted in the article, the judge had no say in the sentence.

      • Given that someone can cross a room quicker than you could draw your weapon, it seems a bit dangerous to wait until you are ready to fire. What if you genuinely fear for your life but haven’t decided whether or not you need to end the life of the other — especially since it was a family member. I think the warning shot is a bad idea but it seems like brandishing and having it at the ready is smart strategically.

        Jason

      • Context is important.

        She is a woman. Presumably smaller, and not as physically powerful as this man was. He had a history of abusing her violently. The garage was not a viable exit. He was in her house without permission and was actively threatening her, and being larger and stronger had the means to enforce his threats. He did not immediately flee when she confronted him with a gun. That could easily indicate an unbalanced/dangerous state of mind.

        If I were in her shoes, I would have felt threatened. I think she showed measured restraint by not killing him. In hindsight, she probably should have fired into the ground, instead of into the air, but its pretty easy to second guess her from the safety of the internet.

        • Let me break it down for you – there’s really only one issue that matters here: She threw away her fire. She made a conscious, if “split second” decision to NOT end the threat immediately.

          If he actually was “lunging” at her and within a range where she felt fearful for her life, the warning shot wouldn’t have stopped him – getting scared does little to halt momentum. If her warning shot didn’t work, then what? Somebody else could’ve been killed (she knew there were children present), he could’ve – would’ve, ostensibly, based on her testimony – reached her and hurt her (or worse), etc.

          These SYG/self-defense cases make the matter pretty darn clear, folks: If you draw your weapon, you shoot. If you shoot, you shoot to kill. Leaving the other person alive can do you no good, aside from – possibly – serving to assuage your conscience, which does somewhere between diddly squat and nada for you when you’re behind bars.

          If somebody as young as me can understand this the rest of y’all shouldn’t have too much difficulty. (The philosophy of all this is another matter entirely.)

        • If you shoot, you shoot to kill.

          That’s very bad advice and if people take it and admit it, they would likely end up in prison. In self defense, you are legally entitled to shoot to stop the threat. If the BG dies, well, that’s just incidental to stopping the threat. But if the purpose of shooting is to kill, the shooter is in trouble.

        • I agree Ralph.

          But amend the statement to “if you shoot, shoot to stop” and the point is made. Missing on purpose, which is what a warning shot really is, is simply irresponsible.

  5. “Justice” is one of those words and concepts that people really don’t understand yet make to fit their own agendas and notions, sort of like the words/concepts of “racist” or “common sense.”

  6. “the fact that she came back into the home, instead of leaving out the front or back door “is inconsistent with a person who is in genuine fear for her life.””

    I guess she was just supposed to leave her children in the house with a violent, beligerent, estranged man?

  7. Leaving aside the sad fact that we have a Legal System in place of what was formerly known as the “Justice System”, warning shots are a sign of poor judgement. The firearm should NEVER come out of the holster unless a clear and present danger to someone’s life is present.

    I was not present at the case, so what follows is pure conjecture, but intuition suggests there is much more to this event than meets the eye. Domestic Violence situations are clear as mud , and in many cases both partners are belligerents.I doubt she was as much of a victim as her defense attorney would have us believe.

    • A major difference between Ms. Alexander and many of the members of the armed intelligentsia reading this blog is gun culture. Ms. Alexander likely has no clue what you and I may simply understand about armed self defense.

      • Thank you, Tim. In your article, you wrote: “Warning shots are not the act of someone in fear for their life. Self defense training dictates that the gun stays in its holster until and unless life is in danger, and then it is three rounds center of mass quick as you can.” I wanted to take exception to that. I can see a situation where a woman with no or little training fires the warning shot out of fear. She is not thinking about rule #4. The Second Amendment does not require everyone to abide by Col. Cooper’s or anyone else’s opinion of the proper course of action in a DGU.

      • A fair point. That said, the right to keep and bear arms and how you exercise that right are different. The four rules are, in my opinion, morally correct and certainly ought to be legally correct. Unfortunately, the gun culture Ms. Alexander absorbed that informed her actions did not serve her in the legal context that followed.

  8. So a person confronting an abusive spouse is required to flee and abandon their children with someone who has stated their intent to commit acts of violence? Nice job judge.

    • Any idea how easy it is to get a restraining order for domestic violence? Any idea how easy it is to get the cops to yank the kids out of there if you report a threat was made?

      • Any idea how long it takes police to arrive on scene? Any idea how long it takes for a grown man to do bodily harm to children? Lame argument. The same logic we use to justify possession of firearms in our home apply to her.

  9. She said it was a “warning shot.” Maybe it was, or maybe she just missed.

    Twenty years might be fifteen too many, but don’t know whether or not I can cry foul on this case. But I’m pretty sure that when Zimmerman gets railroaded, this case will seem like child’s play.

      • I’ve been a lawyer for too long to believe that Zimmerman will receive justice. Just because the evidence is on his side doesn’t mean he’ll walk. The state wants him imprisoned, and so does the Federal government. He’s become just too much of a liability.

  10. Some guy over at reddit did some research (he backed up his posts with links to legal docs, arrest records, etc). Turns out there really is more to the story:

    1. She wasn’t isn’t in trouble for simply firing a warning shot, she’s in trouble because she used deadly force when it wasn’t justified according to the law.

    2. She did not fire the weapon into the kitchen ceiling! She was standing in the living room with her husband (and he was next to his 2 kids), she pointed the gun at his head and fired, the bullet barely missed his head, traveled through the wall and then into the ceiling the of the kitchen.

    3. Her husband’s testimony (the man she fired the gun at) was basically discounted because against the orders of the court they met up after she was arrested and discussed what he was going to say in her defense.

    4. If you still think her husband is trustworthy, he told the police after the shooting that she threatened to shoot him in the past, and his children told the prosecutor that she was screaming at them during the incident, he then testified those were all lies.

    5. After being arrested for shooting, she drove to his house (again she was not supposed to have any contact with him) and assaulted him and she was arrested again.

    6. Her defense about using stand your ground doesn’t work. When she fired the gun, he was not doing anything towards her. She had left the house, got the gun and came back, and he was in the process of leaving when she pointed the gun at him.

    Search “Marissa Alexander” for more.

    • Thanks Gophernator. Those are very salient points, and probably were given to the jury but not expounded in the press.

      • Well, of course not. How else can you label gun owners as raciss and try to force repeal or federal preemption of SYG laws?

    • No whites to blame in this case; they’re only interested in situations that cause race conflict, opportunism, and distraction.

      • Oh, the race baiters are out there. Just look at the first few comments here playing the racism card. I saw this story on Newsvine, and there were race rants all over the place. Not one of them plays in my book. The SYG defense does not by its very terms apply to the facts of the case, and the jury disbelieved her self defense story, with it would seem substantial reason.

  11. Seems to me that she didn’t “stand her ground.” She left and then came back with a weapon. There is not much evidence that she was in danger at all, besides a vague threat without any action to back it up.

    Twenty years is harsh, but her actions don’t seem defensible.

  12. “You can’t shoot a gun at people,” says Corey. “It ricocheted from the wall to the ceiling, but what if it had hit someone?”

    But it didn’t.

    So many laws in this country are based solely on what might happen, not what actually has happened.

    I am and always have been of the opinion that without an actual victim, there is no crime.

  13. Alexander managed to get past Gray and retrieved a gun from her car.
    “Gray told prosecutors in the deposition that Alexander came back into the house holding the weapon and told him to leave.
    I think this is what sank her.
    On the other hand, I think the sentence is ridiculous given the circumstances.

  14. Isn’t there a federal law (not sure it might apply to a state) that if a jury and/or judge find the law and punishment ‘wrong’ and not applicable to the case they do not have to abide by it?

  15. Warning shots are stupid; you shoot to kill when you’re under attack. She wouldn’t be in the situation she’s in now if she had done just that.

  16. This woman did something bad but not 20 years bad. Not even a year bad. This is insanity.

  17. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!? It’s clearly stated that Gray “fled with the children” after being fired upon. I feel like it would be entirely reasonable for a woman who has just had her life threatened by an abusive ex to retrieve a gun and attempt to scare him off in order to defend her CHILDREN. Another example of narrative liscence on the part of lawyers and the media.

    It seems to me that in a truly just and egalitarian society the logical judicial result of this case would be the EXTENSION of SYG laws to cover acts meant to protect the lives of immediate family/children.

    As it is the only logical message that this conviction sends is that if you a pull a gun you should make damn sure you kill your antagonist, since after all then SYG MIGHT apply and if it doesn’t at least the prick you were shooting at won’t bother anyone else. So once again in all thier purported ineffable wisdom those want to “crack down on gun crime” have simply upped the stakes making it more likely that someone will be killed as a result of a DGU.

  18. So if a large angry black man is in your house you’re going to run out the back door. Riiiiiiight

  19. My self defense training does not dictate leaving the gun in the holster and when in danger putting 3 into him. I was taught to draw very early, “upon feelings of confusion”, and draw quickly to “get ahead of the cascade of events and control the outcome with threat or actual lethal force with aggressive action.”. This works. Being ahead of the other guys by just a move or two has saved my life.

  20. Unfortunately she let her emotions rule her head and that means she should have not been in possesion of any type of firearm at all.When she left the building she should have locked herself in her car and called the Police for help. The 20 year sentence is for hardcore criminals for real.What she received is probably excessive and will be reduced due to an appeal and good behavior. She falls into either the temporary insanity catagory or the stupid catagory which creates the question of whether she is fit to be a possesor of firearms and or children. As for the sentence 2 years or 20 years this woman needs therapy and counseling in a serious hospital.As for the Judge,the jury and the prosecuting attorney they need to make sure the punishment fits the crime.Maybe it did,I was not there.Thx-Maxx

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