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Stand Your Ground Decision Postponed In Marissa Alexander Retrial

Rhema Thompson

Attorneys for Marissa Alexander will have to wait a little longer to argue Stand Your Ground in her upcoming case.

Circuit Judge James Daniel had planned to make a decision on whether or not to grant Alexander a hearing for the controversial self-defense law. But after listening to both the state and the defense for nearly two hours, Daniel was left with more questions than answers.

“Obviously, I’m not in a position to make a ruling on this right now,” he said.

This will be the second time Stand Your Ground is being argued in Alexander’s case. The Jacksonville mother is charged with shooting a firearm in the direction of her estranged husband following an altercation. Alexander has claimed she was acting in self-defense—firing a “warning shot” to ward off her spouse Rico Gray who has a history of being abusive.

However, prosecutors have repeatedly pointed out that Alexander fired the shot after leaving the scene, entering the garage to retrieve a gun and returning.

Originally, a judge sided with the prosecution and denied the motion. She was subsequently convicted of aggravated assault and handed a life sentence, pursuant to the state’s 10-20-Life law. An appeals court later threw out the conviction and ordered a retrial of the case.

Granting a second hearing for Alexander would be a first, according to Daniel.

"We're on new terrain here,” he said. “No one has ever considered whether we can have two Stand Your Ground hearings.”

But the defense argued that there were a set of unusual circumstances that merited the second hearing: New evidence, a witness who recanted testimony and a new law--the recently passed so-called “warning shot” bill, which provides an added layer of protection to those who only threaten the use of force.

“The bottom line is we think that will have a determination of whether the law is signed or goes into effect,” said Alexander's attorney Bruce Zimet.

Whether that law will be applied retroactively remained a lingering question throughout Friday’s hearing.

Defense Attorney Faith Gay noted that the prior Stand Your Ground ruling was based on testimony from Gray’s son, Rico Gray Jr., who later recanted. However, Daniel questioned if that recant was credible.

“Your argument assumes that the recantation is true,” Daniel said.

Gay also argued that there was a section of the existent Stand Your Ground that was not argued sufficiently in the Alexander’s previous hearing.

“It doesn’t require any retreating, if you’re in your own home, it doesn’t require you to be attacked. It just requires that you have a reasonable apprehension of harm  that’s imminent and we think that’s there in spades in the record,” she said.

Assistant State Attorney Rich Mantei, however, said that all of the issues presented by the defense Friday were issues covered in Alexander’s previous Stand Your Ground hearing.

“It’s not really new. It’s just cumulative,” he said. “It’s just more people saying bad things” about Gray.

Granting the second Stand Your Ground hearing could “start a run down that rabbit hole” by setting a precedent for every previously denied Stand Your Ground case, he argued.

In the end, Daniel wasn’t swayed either way.
He ordered the court to revisit the issue at the end of June. Alexander will be in court again June 10 for a separate motions hearing.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.