Domestic violence victim Marissa Alexander, 31, of Jacksonville, Florida has been denied a new trial.
Alexander, who has been in a Florida jail since 2010 was denied a new trial after being convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
After only 12 minutes of deliberation, a Florida jury convicted Alexander and she was sentenced to a 20 year prison term due to the mandatory statutes contained in Florida’s penal code.
Because of the nature of the offense, the law requires that Alexander serve a mandatory minimum sentence without consideration of mitigating circumstances, effectively tying the hands of the court that imposed the sentence.
Mandatory minimum sentences were designed as a deterrent to those who would commit certain offenses however there is no definitive evidence that these measures have done anything to curb commission of these offenses.
Mandatory minimums, along with laws like “Stand Your Ground” are a disaster waiting to happen as in the case of Marissa Alexander, who believed she had the right to invoke this law against her abusive husband.
How can a justice system mete out such punishment to someone who clearly deserves mercy call itself fair and impartial when it allows a person to use their own judgement in determining the amount of force to use against another if attacked, then deprive that citizen of liberty because he or she believed they were justified in their actions?
In the same state we have two examples of the application of the same law that may produce two different outcomes.
If George Zimmerman can prove the tides turned against him after pursuing the unarmed Trayvon Martin to a confrontation, the same law that put a woman who hurt no one in prison for 20 years, could allow Zimmerman to go free. How can this be?
If a law that is supposed to protect the people fails to do so, then what value is it to society?
These cases show “Stand Your Ground” protects no one. It did not protect Marissa Alexander, who now faces 20 years in prison, nor has it protected George Zimmerman from a second degree murder charge and who may also end up spending the rest of his life behind bars if convicted due to mandatory sentencing, and it certainly didn’t protect Trayvon Martin who is now dead.
In each instance individuals attempted to use this law as justification for their actions and in each instance people suffered.
Marissa Alexander will no longer be with her family, the family of Trayvon Martin, bereft of their loved one, George Zimmerman, soon to be locked in battle for his life and who will forever have to live with what he did while thinking the law was on his side.
The question to a growing number of people is no longer a question of the validity of “Stand Your Ground”, but a question of whether the state of Florida will “stand its ground” and allow such laws as this and mandatory minimums to remain a part of its system.