Marissa Alexander, a mother whose supporters say was wrongly convicted in 2012 for what they say was an act of self defense involving her abusive husband, was freed from detention in Florida on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, community groups reported.
Circuit Court Judge James Daniel released the African American mother of three on bond until her new trial starts on March 31, 2014, the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign said in a statement.
In 2010, she fired a gunshot that hit a wall after she felt threatened by her then husband, who broke through a locked bathroom door, grabbed her and pushed her into a door, The Associated Press and MSNBC reported. Later, she went to get the gun.
Though no one was injured and Alexander had never been arrested on suspicion of a crime before, a judge said that Florida state law mandated that she be sentenced to a 20-year prison term, The AP reported. The decision sparked an intense debate about race and the criminal justice system.
Civil rights groups, including the NAACP, and elected lawmakers pointed out that Blacks are disproportionately incarcerated. Earlier this year, Alexander was granted a new trial.
Florida New Majority, a grassroots social justice group, thanked Daniel, the judge, for agreeing to release her so she could spend time with her family on Thanksgiving. The group said she is a “victim” and “survivor” of domestic violence.
“This news is vindication for Marissa and all the women who have been criminalized for exercising their basic right to defend themselves and their children,” Angie Nixon of Florida New Majority said in a statement.
“We hope the decision means that the Florida justice system has relented in its vindictive, hostile and racist legal assault on this African American mother of three,” the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign said in a statement.
“Ms. Alexander has been victimized twice – once by her abusive ex-husband and again by the state of Florida, which has stolen nearly three years from her life for an act of self-defense that injured no one.”
Alexander tried to invoke the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law in her defense but was denied, Florida New Majority said.
That Florida law started in 2005 and permits people to use deadly force “when fearing for their live,” Reuters reported. Under the law, people are not obligated to leave an altercation, even if they can.
The decision this year to clear George Zimmerman of criminal charges in the fatal shooting in Florida of Travyon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager, put a spotlight on the “Stand Your Ground” law. Zimmerman used the law as a main part of his defense, Reuters reported.
While community groups that support Alexander welcomed her pre-Thanksgiving release so that she can create holiday memories with her kids, they said more work needs to be done in the case, given that her current trial continues.
“The battle is not over. It is well documented that Black women and other marginalized people are likely to be criminalized, prosecuted and incarcerated while trying to navigate and survive the conditions of violence in their lives,” the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign said.