Marissa Alexander, 31, testified that Rico Gray physically assaulted her on August 1, 2010, before she fled to the garage, and, unable to exit through the malfunctioning automatic door opener, returned to the kitchen with her gun. She fired a shot over Gray’s head, causing a bullet to lodge in the ceiling. Gray and his two sons testified that they were together in the kitchen and in fear of their lives, though one of the sons later changed his story, testifying that he and his brother were never in danger.
Alexander’s attorney presented a “stand your ground” defense — attempting to utilize the Florida law has come to national prominence in the Trayvon Martin case — but a judge ruled against her, saying that by returning to the house, she demonstrated that she was not in fear for her life.
The case was prosecuted by the office of Duval County state attorney Angela Corey, who is now prosecuting Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman.
Corey has said that Alexander acted out of anger, not fear.
The 20 year sentence was a mandatory minimum under Florida’s “10-20-Life law,” which mandates sentences for crimes involving a firearm. Alexander was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.
Alexander’s former husband, Lincoln Alexander, attended the sentencing, and said the day was tough on him and on his and Marissa Alexanders’ 11-year-old twins. Their daughter testified at the sentencing, along with other family members.
A group of student activists, the Dream Defenders, protested at the 7 a.m. hearing, as they did in Sanford prior to Zimmerman’s arrest. The judge, Circuit Judge James Daniel, had them removed from the courthouse.
Daniel had previously denied Alexander’s motion for a new trial.
Marissa Alexander and Rico Gray have a daughter. She apparently texted pictures of the child to Lincoln Alexander before the fight that led to the gun incident in 2010, prompting what she called a physical attack by Grey.
Gray had two previous arrests for domestic violence, including one against Alexander while she was pregnant. Alexander, for her part, pleaded no contest to domestic battery in an incident between her and Gray four months after the gunshot incident.
Follow more from this story by Joy-Ann Reid on The Grio