Marissa Alexander denied 'stand your ground' hearing

By Marques White, Weekend morning anchor, reporter, mwhite@wjxt.com
Adrienne Moore, Weekend anchor, reporter, amoore@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 11:03:10 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 10 2014 09:10:00 AM EDT

A local pastor is denouncing a judge's ruling, denying a second "stand your ground" hearing for Marissa Alexander. The Jacksonville woman is waiting for a new trial on charges of armed aggravated assault. She was convicted 2 years ago for firing what she argued was a warning shot uring a fight with her estranged husband. The bullet missed him and his two young children. An appeals court overturned that conviction citing faulty jury instructions.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A motion for a second "stand your ground" hearing for Marissa Alexander has been denied, in a ruling made Friday by Judge James Daniel.

Alexander's new defense lawyers argued they had new evidence to present, including a recanting of statements made by the son of Alexander's estranged husband, the night she fired a shot into the wall next to where he was standing with both sons.

Daniel said the so-called new evidence brought forth by Alexander's defense lawyers isn't really new and that the material facts of the case haven't changed since the first stand your ground hearing.

Daniel said while the stand your ground law has been changed by the Legislature with the "warning shot" amendment -- which grants immunity to people with clean criminal records who fire a warning shot or threaten to use deadly force in self-defense -- it cannot be applied retroactively.

Mainly, Daniel said while the appeals court granted Alexander, 33, a new trial because of faulty jury instructions, it upheld the denial of the first stand your ground petition.

DOCUMENT: Order denying 'stand your ground' hearing

Specifically to that point, Daniel notes the appeals court said the question whether Alexander is entitled to immunity from prosecution via stand your ground "is no longer open for debate because that issue was definitely resolved ... after a full and fair evidentiary hearing in a ruling that has now been affirmed by this court."

In his motion for a second stand your ground hearing, defense attorney Bruce Zimet said Alexander would be subject to "manifest injustice" should he not have the opportunity to present new evidence. Daniel said all of what he calls new evidence was presented at trial, including the recanting of statements by Rico Gray's son, who said he was pressured to lie by his father.

Alexander remains on home detention, having posted $200,000 bond. Her trial is scheduled for Dec. 1.

"The State stands ready to take this case to trial and seek justice for our two child victims and their father," the State Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Alexander defense attorney Buddy Schulz said, "We have received the order and are in the process of reviewing Judge Daniel's decision. We deeply appreciate the time and thought he gives to the numerous complex and difficult issues in Marissa's case."

Alexander's 2012 conviction and 20-year sentence were overturned last fall.  She was found guilty of firing what she claimed was a warning shot during a fight with her estranged husband.

Alexander was sentenced under the state's 10-20-Life guidelines on charges that she fired a gun at Gray and two of his children.

Before the first trial, Alexander's request for immunity under the state's self-defense law, better known as the stand your ground law, was denied. But as she awaited a new trial on charges of armed aggravated assault, her lawyers filed a motion for reconsideration of her stand your ground claim. That was denied Friday.

Alexander's case has drawn national attention and frequent protests. Daniel's ruling came four days before Alexander supporters are planning a week-long “Standing Our Ground” conference in Jacksonville.

Denise Hunt, who said she's been with the activist group "Free Marissa" and protested Alexander's conviction and sentence, said she was shocked by Monday's ruling, and now she and others are working on increasing voter registration in Florida.

"We've got to change the laws. We've got to change the lawmakers. We have to have a change in Florida," Hunt said.

“It was stand your ground, and so many other people have been given the benefit of immunity under stand your ground and she certainly met the criteria for that,” Hunt said.

Local Pastor Kenneth Adkins said he wants Alexander to take the first plea deal she was offered. He and others say they believe there's no way Alexander would want to spend 60 years in prison.

"She's a mother, a family person," Adkins said. "I want her to be able to get on with her life. That's number one. Secondly, I believe this is the best for our community. I think after what we've gone through the last two years with Michael Dunn and Trayvon Martin, I think it can only be negative for the city of Jacksonville."

But Adkins' position has been criticized on a national level, most recently in an open letter published in Ebony magazine. Adkins said he's received threats over the comments and has spoken to State Attorney Angela Corey about them.