Marissa Alexander Update

[Content Note: Domestic violence; guns; misogynoir.]

Marissa Alexander, the black woman from Florida (the same state in which George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, under the same prosecutor) who, despite the state's Stand Your Grand statute, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot into the ceiling when her abusive husband was trying to harm her, was granted a new trial late last year.

Last week, Alexander made a plea deal in order to avoid a second trial. Alexander "was ordered on Monday to serve three years in jail after pleading guilty to three felony charges. The 1,030 days she has already been behind bars will count as time served, meaning she will be released on Jan. 27." She will also serve two years of probation while wearing a surveillance monitor.

Free Marissa Now issued a statement upon news of the deal:
The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign supports Marissa Alexander's self-determination to make the best choices she can while navigating the violent and impossible circumstances created by her abusive husband, Angela Corey, and Florida's judicial system. "The plea deal is a relief in some ways, but this is far from a victory," said Alisa Bierria, from the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign. "The deal will help Marissa and her family avoid yet another very expensive and emotionally exhausting trial that could have led to the devastating ruling of spending the rest of her life in prison. Marissa's children, family, and community need her to be free as soon as possible. However, the absurdity in Marissa's case was always the fact that the courts punished and criminalized her for surviving domestic violence, for saving her own life. The mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years, and then 60 years, just made the state's prosecution increasingly shocking. But we have always believed that forcing Marissa to serve even one day in prison represents a profound and systemic attack on black women's right to exist and all women's right to self-defense."

...Alexander's case has unfolded in the context of the larger crisis of mass incarceration that disproportionately impacts black women and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The ACLU estimates that 85-90% of people in women's prisons have been victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse. For the next 65 days, the campaign urges Alexander's supporters all over the world to organize rallies and forums that raise awareness about Alexander's case and the cases of other incarcerated women who face similar circumstances, such as Charmaine Pfender.
Lauren Chief Elk noted at least one headline absurdly celebrating that Alexander will soon be "free." But is anyone with a felony conviction ever free for the rest of their lives?

(That's rhetorical, of course.)

A felony conviction can mean one can no longer vote; it is an official or unofficial disqualifying status for many jobs; it can lead to housing discrimination.

Alexander will no longer be in prison. But she will not be free. And being obliged to plead guilty to a crime with which she never should have been charged in the first place, in order to avoid a costly trial and the possibility of a 60-year sentence, is not justice. Not even a little bit.

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