After defending her life from her abusive husband by firing a warning shot, Marissa Alexander was unjustly charged and convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm. Though she caused no injuries, Florida’s 10-20-Life mandatory minimum sentencing law required that she receive a sentence of 20 years.  The judge literally said the sentence was “out of my hands.” 

The past couple of months have seen some important reforms to this law:  

  • In February, Florida legislators REPEALED part of the 10-20-Life law, allowing judges to take into account mitigating circumstances (such as domestic violence) when determining sentencing in cases where a firearm is involved.
  • After Marissa successfully appealed her conviction in 2013, State Prosecutor Angela Corey announced that she would re-try Marissa and this time pursue a 60 year sentence.  Marissa was charged with three counts of aggravated assault, and Corey argued that the mandatory minimum law required that multiple sentences must be served consecutively rather than concurrently. This past March, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that mandatory minimum sentences can be served concurrently according to judges’ discretion.

These reforms were, in large part, inspired by Marissa’s case. However, if Marissa had been convicted in a second trial rather than agree to a plea in 2014, the first reform would not have impacted her mandated sentence retroactively.

The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign released a response:

“We welcome the weakening of mandatory minimum sentencing and congratulate all who organized to secure this hard-won legislative reform. As we have argued, mandatory minimums have been a major contributor to the hyperincarceration of black people and the warehousing of tens of thousands of people in the U.S.  They are also particularly dangerous for survivors of sexual and domestic violence who are prosecuted because the context of the violence they experience from their abusers can have no impact on sentencing decisions.

We continue to call for Marissa Alexander’s freedom with no further delay, the immediate end of all mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the dismantling of the prison industrial complex, and comprehensive support for all survivors of violence.  The vast majority of people in women’s prisons are survivors of sexual and/or domestic violence.  There is a definitive pipeline between gender violence and criminalization.  Survivors living within the intersections of domestic violence,  stalking, sexual violence, and systems of police, court, and prison violence need and deserve our solidarity.”  #FreeMarissa #SurvivedAndPunished

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