To Marissa Alexander; Calls for Reform of Florida Mandatory Minimum Law
For Immediate Release
Date: May 3, 2012
Contact: Greg Newburn, FAMM Florida Project Director, email@example.com
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) Florida Project Director Greg Newburn today expressed disappointment with the decision of Circuit Court Judge James Daniel to deny Marissa Alexander a new trial. Alexander, a 31-year old mother of three convicted of aggravated assault after firing a warning shot during an attack by her abusive husband, faces a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence under Florida’s “10-20-Life” law. The judge scheduled Ms. Alexander’s sentencing for May 11.
“Today’s decision moves Marissa Alexander’s case one step closer to a shockingly unjust conclusion. Indeed, thanks to the inflexible 10-20-Life law, the Florida criminal justice system is just one week away from destroying a young woman’s life,” Newburn said. “Ms. Alexander was a victim of abuse and did what she needed to do to protect herself. Unfortunately, this case fits a pattern we see over and over in Florida. A person acts in self-defense, is prosecuted as a criminal, and is then denied individualized punishment at sentencing.”
The decision to deny Marissa Alexander a new trial means she is subject to sentencing under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, which requires a 20-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for any person convicted of a felony who discharges a firearm in the commission of that felony. Since aggravated assault is a felony, Ms. Alexander is subject to the 20-year sentence. Newburn said, “It is one thing to hear of an individual slipping through the cracks of the justice system. It is something entirely different - and horrifying - to watch it happen in real time to a real person. Ms. Alexander has already spent more than a year in jail away from her family. It is simply unconscionable to allow this nightmare to continue.” He added, “As long as Florida keeps its inflexible sentencing laws, we will continue to see cases like Ms. Alexander’s. Lee Wollard and Erik Weyant are both serving 20-year sentences right now.”
A Task Force designed to study Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law met for the first time this week. Newburn hopes the Task Force studies sentencing laws, too. Newburn said, “Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law is intended to protect the fundamental right of self-defense for all Floridians. But mandatory minimum sentences limit the exercise of that right. If we want to truly protect self-defense and prevent injustice, judges need discretion in cases like these.” He added, “In the meantime, Governor Scott should correct this failure of the justice system and commute Ms. Alexander’s sentence immediately.”
For more information on Marissa Alexander’s case, see this op-ed by Greg Newburn, or this Huffington Post piece by FAMM President Julie Stewart.
For more on Orville Lee Wollard’s case, see his profile and an op-ed by Ms. Stewart that appeared in The Washington Times. For another case involving an excessive sentence imposed under the 10-20-life law, see FAMM’s profile of Erik Weyant.
To schedule an interview with Florida Project Director Greg Newburn, please call 352.682.2542.
## 30 ##