In just a few months, the Jacksonville woman who inspired the so-called “Warning Shot” bill is expected to have another trial. Several activist groups rallied at the Capitol Thursday, urging Governor Rick Scott to get rid of the lead State Attorney who’s seeking a 60-year prison term in the re-trial of Marissa Alexander.
On the steps of the Old Capitol building, Edward James—a member of Black Youth Project 100—led a small group of people in a chant, who are advocating on behalf of Marissa Alexander. They’re hoping to get their voices heard to get rid of Angela Corey, the main prosecutor on the case.
Alexander’s case has gained national attention, after she fired a warning shot during an alleged domestic violence dispute with her husband. She initially claimed self-defense, but a judge said it didn’t apply. She was convicted under Florida’s 10-20-Life law and received a 20-year prison sentence.
She’s since served about two years of that sentence, but will now get a new trial in July—after there were some issues in her first trial. Now, Corey is pursuing a 60-year prison term, and Melissa Byrne says that’s wrong.
“While Marissa faces 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot, the killer of Trayvon Martin faces no time behind bars and the killer of Jordan Davis is facing minor punishment despite killing a teenager in cold blood. The case also demonstrates the failing of a justice system that lets survivors of domestic abuse fall through the cracks,” said Byrne.
Byrne is an activist with UltraViolet, who traveled all the way from Washington D.C. She along with other groups then walked to the Governor’s office, with a young boy taking the lead in carrying thousands of petitions.
The Governor was in St. Augustine at the time for an event, so they waited for a woman from the Governor’s staff to arrive.
And, when she did, she was asked by Byrne to explain her role.
"I am an aide to the Governor. I work in the office of citizen services," said the aide.
“Fantastic," replied Byrne. “Well, a great citizen service would be for Governor Rick Scott to immediately suspend Angela Corey for the way she’s been practicing. Her role has been very discriminatory and full of vengeance and not justice. And, it’s not in the best interest of Floridians.”
Byrne as well as other activists then handed off a brown rectangular box carrying 100,000 signatures from people all over the country. They also delivered some yellow and red roses as well as a poster made of flowers, labeled “60 years” for the aide to give to Governor Scott.
“This is saying 60 years with a question mark, because he [Scott] has the ability to change it. And, roses to commemorate all of the holidays and little moments in her life if she spends her whole life behind bars,” said Byrne.
The aide later left, adding she would pass along the remarks to the Governor. And, Yehudit Touré, part of the “Free Marissa Now” movement, hopes something will happen. The 14-year-old says she believes it’s wrong that Alexander spends any time in jail.
“She shot a warning shot. It wasn’t that big of a deal because she was protecting herself, and I feel like it’s a motherly instinct, and 60 years away from her children is unnecessary because I don’t know how I would feel if my mother was to go away for 60 years. So, they should think about not only Marissa, but the people it affects,” said Touré.
It’s important to note that in Alexander’s initial trial she was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault and received 20 years each—one for her husband and two for her stepchildren. But the judge in the case allowed her to serve it concurrently, rather than consecutive, meaning she only had to serve 20 years in prison. Prosecutors say they’re following the sentencing laws, especially after the appeals court decision stated Alexander should have served a consecutive prison term of 60 years, not 20.
Meanwhile, Marissa Alexander has not only inspired a coalition groups, she’s also inspired a measure nicknamed the “Warning shot” bill that legally allows someone to threaten the use of force if they believe they’re in danger. Its intent is to fix the unintended consequences of Florida’s 10-20-Life law, which the law’s own author has said was not meant for the prosecution to use in self-defense cases.
The measure also allows for someone to get their records expunged if they claimed Stand Your Ground and were found not guilty. Some Democrats as well as the First Amendment Foundation are now urging the Governor to veto the bill because they say no one will be able to track these cases now that there would be no public record.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.