Marissa was sentenced to a mandatory 20-year prison term under Florida’s 10-20-Life law for firing a warning shot to scare off her abusive husband. Even the law’s author seemed to think the sentence was inappropriate. In 2014, however, her sentence was overturned, and in 2015, Marissa was released after three years of incarceration, receiving two years of house arrest in lieu of more prison time.
Marissa Alexander was serving a 20-year mandatory prison term under Florida’s 10-20-Life gun sentencing law for firing a warning shot to scare off her abusive husband.
During her marriage to Rico Gray, Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of there, suffered from physical abuse that once left her hospitalized and led her to obtain a restraining order against her husband. He threatened that if she ever cheated on him, he would kill her.
On August 1, 2010, Gray confronted Alexander after he found what he considered suspicious text messages on Alexander’s cell phone. The two got into a heated argument and though Gray’s two children were in the home with him, Alexander says an enraged Gray choked her and refused to let her leave.
At some point during the argument, Alexander made her way to the garage, from which she intended to leave. However, she realized she could not get the garage door to open. Fearing for her safety, before reentering the home Alexander retrieved a handgun (for which she had a valid conceal carry permit) from her car.
Upon reentering the home, Alexander had the gun pointed at the floor and demanded Gray leave the house. However, Gray was still furious and refused to leave. He moved toward Alexander, who shot in the air one time. After the shot was fired, Gray took his kids and left the house. No one was injured.
Alexander was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault. She sought immunity from prosecution under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but was denied.
State Attorney Angela Corey offered Alexander a plea bargain that would have required her to serve a three-year mandatory minimum sentence. However, because Alexander felt she was acting in self-defense, she turned down the offer. A jury convicted Alexander on all three counts, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison, the minimum sentence allowed under Florida’s “10-20-Life” mandatory sentencing law.
At sentencing, Alexander’s relatives and friends begged Circuit Judge James Daniel for leniency but he said the decision was out of his hands. “The Legislature has not given me the discretion to do what the family and many others have asked me to do.” Even the author of Florida’s 10-20-Life law, former state Senator Victor Crist, seemed to think the sentence was inappropriate. When asked about the case, Crist said 10-20-Life was not intended to cover cases like hers.
The Facts: Marissa Alexander
Sentence: 20 years (Marissa’s initial conviction, and 20-year sentence, were overturned in 2014. The Florida State Attorney’s office was preparing to retry Marissa when she accepted a plea agreement in 2015. Had she been convicted on all three counts during the new trial, she faced a 60-year sentence.
Offense: Aggravated assault with a weapon without intent to kill (3 counts)
Year sentenced: 2012
Age at sentencing: 31
Projected release date: 2031