There’s been a lot of hubbub about the case of Marissa Alexander, a woman who pulled a gun on her abusive husband and has now been found guilty of three counts of Aggravated Assault on a Florida court, after being denied immunity under the SYG law. A superficial reading of the case in the media, and you might be readily inclined to believe this is a double standard. After looking through as many sources on the case as I could find, including original sources, I don’t believe it’s as conclusive.
There is absolutely no doubt, reading the initial deposition from her husband, that he’s pretty much scum. If she had aided his departure from the realm of the living, I wouldn’t shed a tear for him. But that’s a different matter from whether she’s legally entitled to a SYG defense. Alexander’s husband recanted much of the testimony that appears in that link, and if you read the denial of immunity, you will note that the evidence in the case comports with her having pointed the gun in his direction, and not into the air as both he and she had stated in the beginning.
Furthermore, the sequence of events in the caseÂ (click through to public access) lines up with a lot of the more detailed media reports I came across. She was originally granted bail, and told not to have contact with any of the victims. She violated that, and made contact with them, assaulted the husband, was rearrested and charged with domestic battery. Her bond on the original charge was revoked. Her attorney, at this point, motioned to withdraw as counsel and it was granted.
In any case of self-defense, your credibility is really going to be key to winning your case. Alexander, through her own actions, destroyed her own credibility. In that case, it’s going to come down to evidence, and agreed upon facts, in determining whether she acted reasonably in threatening her husband and his two children with a gun. In this case, those facts seem to point to Alexander not having a reasonable fear of grave bodily injury or death at the time she employed a firearm. When being judged by a reasonable person standard, it is very important for a jury to believe you are a reasonable person. Otherwise, as the Alexander case shows, you won’t be given benefit of doubt when testimony and facts dispute your accounting of things.
That said, Florida imposes a mandatory minimum for aggravated assault with a firearm of 20 years. This seems excessive to me for an act that ultimately did not harm anyone. It’s worth noting that the prosecution offered a plea deal that was ultimately rejected, but regardless, 20 years with no possibility of parole seems harsh. You won’t do that for armed robbery in Pennsylvania.