TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Florida appeals court is ordering a new trial for a woman sentenced to 20 years to prison after she fired a warning shot in a wall during a dispute with her husband.
The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that a judge did not properly instruct the jury handling the case of Marissa Alexander.
But the appeals court did also state that the judge was right to block Alexander from using the state's "Stand Your Ground" law as a way to defend her actions.
Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her.
Kevin Cobbin represented Marissa in her trial and has remained an advocate commented on the decision and stated, "It is a good day. I won't be saying anything on camera, respecting the judicial system. Personally, we're very excited the case will be coming back. Her attorneys will seek to have her released on bond, but nobody will celebrate until she's home. The process still has to work through, she's [Alexander] not done yet."
An initial statement from the State Attorney's Office said, "The defendant's conviction was reversed on a legal technicality. The First District Court of Appeal found that Florida's Supreme Court's jury instructions were wrong. We are gratified that the Court affirmed the defendant's Stand Your Ground ruling. This means the defendant will not have another Stand Your Ground hearing. The case will be back in Circuit Court in the Fourth Judicial Circuit at the appropriate time."
Former Chief Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern Division of Florida, Bruce A. Zimet added, "Marissa was informed of the reversal of her conviction early this afternoon. Marissa expressed her gratitude for today's decision as well as her continued confidence in the judicial system's ability to correct mistakes. Marissa also wanted to thank those who have offered their support and prayers during her incarceration. Finally, Marissa expressed her desire to be back with her children and family. Marissa's case will be returned to the Circuit Court in Jacksonville. Judge James H. Daniel will set a date for Marissa's retrial."
Zimet and Marissa's lead appellate attorneys Faith Gay, will also lead the defense in Marissa's new trial.
Isaiah Rumlin with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Jacksonville Branch reacted to the news stating, "That is excellent. I'm overjoyed. I think the court made the right decision. She was overcharged, It never should have gotten as far as it did."
Rumlin explained he was hardly able to talk upon hearing the news, adding, "This is good news. She's going to get a new trial. I think we did the right thing in what we did as it relates to the demonstrations and all the social media that got involved and the lawyer from New York who got involved.
Pioneer in the battered women's movement, Mike Dowd, told First Coast News, "It's pretty clear the system worked. There was an erroneous instruction on self-defense given at the trial. The State has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they [the accused] did not act in self defense, but the does not have to prove [anything] beyond reasonable doubt."
"I'm not even sure she is [Alexander]aware of the decision. You don't have access to the internet in jail," Dowd added, "It's a very good day. This is a lady who needed justice and certainly we're halfway home. If there is a trial I would certainly be involved. That's the way the system is supposed to work."
Alexander's case in Jacksonville has drawn attention and criticism aimed at mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.
Congresswoman Corrine Brown made the following statement:
"I am so pleased to hear that Florida's First District Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Marissa Alexander. It has been clear to me since the day she was sentenced that a 20 year mandatory jail term was terribly excessive, and I am thrilled that she will be given another attempt to defend herself. I would like to thank Marissa's hard working team of attorneys, Mr. Bruce Zimet of Ft. Lauderdale and Mr. Michael Dowd of New York, Mr. Kevin Cobbin, who represented Marissa at her trial, as well as the National Clearing House for the Defense of Battered Women.
A documented victim of domestic violence, Marissa was sentenced to 20 years in prison merely for firing a warning shot into the air to scare off her ex-husband, Rico Gray, who was consistently abusive toward her. It is important to note his threatening words just minutes before the incident: 'If I can't have you, nobody is going to have you.' Indeed, millions of abused women have heard those harsh words.
Abused women like Marissa, who has a master's degree and no prior record, need support and counseling so they don't find themselves in these situations to begin with. Arresting and prosecuting her when no one was hurt does not make any sense. And beyond a doubt, mandatory minimum sentences just make Florida's already broken system even more arbitrary and cruel. What was certainly absent from the courtroom during Marissa's trial was mercy and justice. Indeed, the three year plea deal from State Attorney Angela Corey is not mercy, and a mandatory twenty year sentence is not justice!
Along with Marissa and the team defending her, I am glad the justice system worked in this instance, and am very hopeful that she will see justice and be vindicated at her upcoming trial."
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Contributing: The Associated Press.
First Coast News