Florida Court Suggests African-Americans May Have Right to “Stand Your Ground” Defense Too

Thursday, October 03, 2013
Marissa Alexander (photo: Lincoln B. Alexander, AP)

Without specifically mentioning race, a Florida appellate court’s ruling has suggested that the state’s controversial stand-your-ground law should apply to African-Americans as well as others, like George Zimmerman.


When Marissa Alexander, who is black, fired a warning shot into the ceiling near her estranged husband, she claimed that she was acting out of self-defense during a heated conversation with the man who had previously abused her. Her husband was not injured.


But the judge ruled that the stand-your-ground law didn’t apply in Alexander’s case.


After a jury found her guilty in May 2012, Alexander—who had no prior criminal history—received a 20-year prison sentence from the judge, who cited the state’s minimum sentencing laws for his decision.


Critics said Alexander’s case represented an unfair application of the stand-your-ground law. They cited the acquittal of Zimmerman, the half-white, half-Hispanic neighborhood watch captain who claimed self-defense and was found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, after he pursued the unarmed youth and shot him to death.


In Alexander’s case, her attorney appealed the conviction, and an appeals court ruled she deserved a new trial after the judge improperly instructed the jury.


The “appellate court did not directly address potential inequity in how the law was applied to a black woman versus the biracial Zimmerman,” Patrik Jonsson wrote for the Christian Science Monitor.


Rather, the appellate court found that the judge erred in telling the jury that Alexander had to prove that her shot was in self-defense.


In the Zimmerman case, Jonsson noted, the judge took special care to explain the self-defense doctrine to the jury, pointing out that it was incumbent upon the prosecution to prove that Zimmerman’s actions went beyond self-defense in order to convict him.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Florida Mom to Get New Trial: Did Court Detect a 'Stand Your Ground' Inequity? (by Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor)

Is Angela Corey the Worst Prosecutor in the United States? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Are “Stand Your Ground” Laws Warped to Favor White People?  (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Mark Taff 6 years ago
"Rather, the appellate court found that the judge erred in telling the jury that Alexander had to prove that her shot was in self-defense." No. The Appellate Court ruled the jury was improperly instructed that she had to prove it was self-defense 'beyond a reasonable doubt', when she in fact had (and now has to again) prove it was self-defense by a 'preponderance of the evidence'. Note also that the appellate court also ruled that SYG did not apply to her, because she hadn't proved it was self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence. Basically, the court said that she was guilty and properly sentenced, but because of the jury instruction error, justice requires that she be given a new trial with a new jury, one that is *properly* instructed as to the burden of proof.
Gideon 6 years ago
Original story says she claimed Stand Your Ground and Zimmerman claimed Self Defense. She left the incident and then returned withh a gun. Zimmerman was retuning to his vehicle when Martin jumped out at him. There are two different laws and two different scenerios here. She left her perceived threat and then returned to that very same threat. It sounds like she did,'t like the results so she is changing her story.
ron jones 6 years ago
According to the Huffington Post,-last year-, she went to her car, got the gun, came back inside and fired two shots. In which one went thru the wall nearly missing the kids in that room. She had a chance to leave but didn't. The article then goes on to say that when she was released she when to HIS house, while under a restraining order, and began to fight him. If this is true, SHE IS EXACTLY where she belongs!!

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