Florida woman who fired 'warning shot' at husband remains free on bond

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 10, 2014 2:04 PM

By Susan Cooper Eastman

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida woman released on bond after a public outcry over the 20-year prison sentence she got for firing a "warning shot" during an argument with her abusive husband, will not be sent back to jail, despite having violated bail.

A judge on Friday rejected a motion by prosecutors seeking to revoke bail for Marissa Alexander, 33, and return her to jail as she awaits retrial for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Duval Circuit Court Judge James Daniel ruled Friday that corrections officials made a mistake in permitting Alexander to leave her home while out on bond.

Daniel found that Alexander violated the court order on Nov 27 that granted her release from prison, but was not at fault as she depended on the interpretation of his orders by her home detention supervisor.

"It was a mistake," said Daniel.

A state appeals court ruled in September that Alexander was entitled to a new trial because the judge failed to properly instruct the Jacksonville jury about her self-defense argument.

Alexander's case is scheduled for retrial on March 31.

Alexander was released on $200,000 bond after nearly 3 years in jail, with the proviso that she was under house arrest and could leave only for court appearances, medical emergencies and pretrial appointments.

State Attorney Angela Corey filed a motion on Monday to return Alexander to prison, saying she had defied the court's authority, running errands to go shopping for clothes, buy new eyeglasses, take her car for repair estimates, pick up her children from school and drive family members at the airport.

Alexander's attorneys responded that each of those times she had received permission from her Correction Service Counselor, April Wilson.

In the future, Daniel said Alexander's attorneys will need to come before him to request any deviations of his court order restricting Alexander's home detention.

The Alexander case ignited widespread controversy and protests from civil rights groups last year when her supporters compared it to the self-defense case of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of killing black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Although no one was injured in Alexander's case, the court gave her a 20-year prison term under the state's mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, because she had fired a gun during the alleged assault.

Under Florida's so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, people who use deadly force to defend themselves from serious injury - rather than retreating to avoid confrontation - can be immune from prosecution. But Alexander's "Stand Your Ground" claim was rejected because during the confrontation with her husband she left the house to go to her car and retrieve a gun she later fired near his head.

The 5-feet-2 (1.57 meter) slightly built Alexander said her 245-pound (111 kg) husband, Rico Gray, was about to attack her when she fired once into a kitchen wall during the August 2010 incident.

Gray had been convicted of domestic violence, and, at the time of the shooting, Alexander had a concealed weapons permit as well as an active restraining order against her husband.

(Editing by David Adams and Gunna Dickson)