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First Coast Connect
Thu January 9, 2014
Controversy Continues For Marissa Alexander With Motion To Revoke Bail
The Marissa Alexander case has become another flashpoint in Florida involving issues of race, gender and the state’s controversial gun laws.
Alexander is currently awaiting a judge’s decision on whether or not she will face more jail time after allegedly violating conditions of her release on bail in November.
Janet Johnson, a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, and Rod Sullivan, professor at Florida Coastal School of Law, joined Melissa Ross to discuss the implications of the state’s latest action against Alexander and the issues surrounding her charges.
“She’s supposed to only leave the house in a medical emergency. She is entitled to go to court, obviously, and generally you’re entitled to go see your lawyer,” said Johnson, referring to the conditions of Alexander’s bond.
The State Attorney’s Office is contending that Alexander violated these terms by running a number of unauthorized personal errands. These activities ranged from getting her hair done to visiting the residence of the victim’s brother.
Information about these activities led prosecutors to file a motion to modify or revoke bail.
Johnson and Sullivan both noted that April Wilson, Alexander’s correctional counselor, had the authority to grant permission for these sorts of activities and reportedly signed off on the trips.
“It’s very difficult to say that Marissa is flouting the law when she tells her corrections counselor what she’s going to do and gets approval,” Sullivan noted.
While the judge’s ruling is expected to come on Friday regarding the parole, the outcome of nationally publicized case remains to be seen.
Alexander’s case has been another stage for controversy surrounding the application of Florida’s gun laws.
Sullivan, however, believes that many will find the “10-20-Life” law initially used to convict Alexander to be overextended in this case. He doesn’t think a jury will be likely to return a guilty verdict with the type of sentence Corey is pushing for.
“If she’s reconvicted, (she) is going to be subject to a mandatory 20 years in jail for firing a bullet into a wall that hit no one,” he said.
Johnson noted that the possibility of this sentence comes in the wake of a plea deal that Alexander denied which would’ve resulted in a 3-year state prison sentence.
The complexities of the charges has spurred state legislators to revisit the sentencing statute, and Sullivan said this case has made it likely that a “warning shot” bill now also under consideration in Tallahassee will pass this year.
Johnson added that Florida has a tendency to send mixed messages about its stance on guns; it is easy to acquire a gun and use one outside the home, yet residents are prosecuted aggressively for doing so without a very specific defense.
The parallels of Alexander's case to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, and the unsuccessful prosecution of George Zimmerman, have political implications for Angela Corey.
Much of the outcome of the motion to revoke bail will hinge on the state’s argument concerning Alexander’s visit to the victim’s brother’s home.
You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.
WJCT News intern Aaron Badida (@aaronbadida) contributed to this report.
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