[Content Note: Violence; guns; misogynoir.]
Marissa Alexander is the black woman from Florida (the same state in which George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, under the same prosecutor) who was convicted and sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot into the ceiling when her abusive husband was trying to harm her. After a campaign to petition for her release, Alexander was granted a new trial.
I just got a dispatch from the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign about what's happening ahead of her retrial, scheduled for this summer, and I'm just going to post the entire thing in full (emphases original):
On Thursday, January 30, Marissa Alexander was granted a request to have her trial rescheduled for July 28th. Alexander's attorney, Bruce Zimet, said the initial March 31 trial date was too soon for adequate preparation. He said he needs additional time to line up expert witnesses on Battered Women's Syndrome, ballistics, and research into contested testimony at Alexander's first trial.
In 2012, Alexander, an African American mother of three from Jacksonville, Florida, received a 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot to stop her estranged husband, a serial abuser, from attacking her. No one was injured by Alexander's action. Alexander was denied Stand Your Ground protection and received a lengthy sentence under Florida's Mandatory Minimum laws. After serving nearly three years in prison, Alexander was granted a new trial by a Florida Appeals Court, which said the first trial improperly forced Alexander to prove her innocence. The U.S. legal system puts the burden of proof on the prosecution. Alexander was released on bond on Thanksgiving Day 2013 and is under house detention until her new trial concludes.
"The error in Alexander's first trial has cost the state and taxpayers. But Marissa and her family have paid more than anyone financially and emotionally," says Sumayya Fire, a leader of the national Free Marissa Now mobilization and the African American/Black Women's Cultural Alliance. "While we are anxious to see Marissa exonerated and free from house detention as soon as possible, we also want her to get the best trial possible. Marissa's family appreciates the court's flexibility in rescheduling the trial and allowing more time for preparation," says Fire. "Marissa's thousands of supporters are confident she will win when the jurors understand her situation as a battered woman. Justice really demands that State Prosecutor Angela Corey drop the charges now and not put this woman through the cost and anxiety of another trial."
At the January 30 hearing, Judge James Daniel said he would impose strict rules on media coverage of the case in order to "control what picture is being shown" in pre-trial publicity. The judge also wants to ban live-streaming and the use of Twitter in the courtroom.
Supporters of Alexander believe it is crucial that the prosecutors' office not be the only public source of information. In early January, Prosecutor Corey attempted to revoke Alexander's bond and went public with accusations that Alexander had "repeatedly flouted" the conditions of her bond; "demonstrated her utter disregard for conforming her behavior to the rules others must abide by"; and "disrespected" the Court in "blatant fashion." In fact, Corey's office knew that all of Alexander's trips outside her home had been fully approved by an experienced Correctional Service Counselor. Judge Daniel upheld Alexander's bond and said that her trips outside the house had followed correct procedures and were not intentional violations.
Helen Gilbert, another Free Marissa Now leader and a member of Radical Women, says: "We've already experienced an issue with Angela Corey trying to manipulate public opinion and with community members being shut out of one of Marissa's public hearings. Free Marissa Now wants full transparency and accountability at every step of this trial. The world is watching this case because it will impact not only Marissa's future but also all survivors of domestic violence."
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is calling for a week of action from February 8-16 to draw attention to Alexander's case and other criminalized survivors of domestic violence. On February 14-16, thousands of activists around the world are anticipated to raise awareness about violence against women.
-- Campaign organizers urge supporters to hold rallies and forums, create art, fundraise for Alexander's legal defense fund, send cards to Alexander and other survivors of violence, and use social networking to help get the word out.
-- On February 8, supporters on Twitter will raise awareness about Alexander's case and the growing mass incarceration of women and girls in general. Using the hashtags #FreeMarissa and #SaturdaySchool, participants can find the conversation on Twitter @freemarissanow.
-- February 10th is the third anniversary of the day Alexander entered prison. On that date, the Free Marissa DJ project will be launched (www.freemarissanow.org/free-marissa-dj.html). Through this activity, the public is invited to dedicate a song to the cause of freeing Alexander and ending domestic violence and mass incarceration. Donors can contribute at http://igg.me/at/freemarissa2, then post a link to a music video, a quote from their chosen song, or a video of themselves singing the song at facebook.com/FreeMarissaNow. Free Marissa Now hopes to raise $30,000 by early March. The cost for Alexander's legal defense is expected to be over $250,000.
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is an international grassroots campaign led by a core of organizers representing the African American/Black Women's Cultural Alliance, New Jim Crow Movement - Jacksonville, Radical Women, INCITE!, and the Pacific Northwest Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander. For more information, see www.FreeMarissaNow.org.
Please, as always, feel welcome to leave links to additional resources in comments.
And I can't emphasize strongly enough how important it is just to make noise about this case, and let the prosecutors know we are watching.