World & Nation

Florida woman who got 20 years for warning shot released pending retrial

Marissa Alexander
Marissa Alexander arrives in court on Oct. 31 at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla. Judge James Daniel set a March 31, 2014 date for jury selection in the retrial of Alexander.
( Bruce Lipsky / Florida Times-Union)

A Florida woman who became a cause celebre for civil-rights activists after she received a 20-year prison sentence for firing a warning shot has been released on house arrest this week as she awaits another trial.

Marissa Alexander’s supporters said that she was at home for Thanksgiving with her children Thursday after she was released on $200,000 bond following a judge’s ruling on Wednesday.

Alexander’s sentence, which she received after she unsuccessfully invoked Florida’s “stand your ground” law, came to prominence after the nation was gripped by the Trayvon Martin case, in which George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder after shooting the unarmed 17-year-old.

Alexander, like Martin, is black, and advocates like the Rev. Jesse Jackson have argued for her release, calling Florida’s self-defense laws unfair and unevenly applied to people of color.


During an argument, the mother of three had fired the warning shot in the direction of her estranged husband, against whom she had a protective order and who had twice been arrested on suspicion of attacking her.

However, she was denied a “stand your ground” immunity hearing and was convicted of aggravated assault in 2012. Given that she used a gun, Florida’s “10-20-Life” minimum sentencing laws required that she be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Alexander’s holiday release comes after her conviction was thrown out in September by a Florida appellate court that said her trial judge had improperly instructed the jury about how to handle her self-defense claim.

On Wednesday, a Duval County circuit court judge granted her request to be released on bond as she awaits retrial -- but not without restrictions. Alexander is subject to electronic monitoring and is not allowed to leave home unless to go to court or to handle a medical emergency.


Alexander’s request for bond was hampered by the misdemeanor conviction she received the previous time she was out on bond in 2011 and awaiting trial for the gunshot incident.

In that instance, prosecutors said she violated her bond conditions by meeting up with her husband and trying to sway his trial testimony -- an encounter that resulted in another fight with her husband that left his “left eye swollen and bloodied.” Alexander’s bond was revoked and she was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading no contest.

In Wednesday’s ruling, circuit Judge James H. Daniel cited the incident as a reason for making Alexander’s bond terms more stringent but said the incident was offset by the fact that enough time had passed and that Alexander had served her misdemeanor sentence.

Supporters celebrated the decision.

“I am so pleased and happy that Marissa can spend this holiday and hopefully many more to come with her family and children,” U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) told the Florida Times-Union.


Travelers stranded by powerful East Coast storm

Chemical leak from derailed train forces evacuations in Ohio


Supreme Court to hear cases on Obamacare and birth control

Get our Today's Headlines newsletter