JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Florida woman whose conviction sparked a change in the state’s gun laws is now completely free and says she plans to run an organization to help victims of domestic violence caught up in the criminal justice system.
Marissa Alexander told The Florida Times-Union that she wants to help others because “from what I’ve been through I know a lot more about the system and how it fits together.”
“I’ve been contained since 2011,” Alexander said. “But I’m excited to have the chance to give back using whatever platform I have.”
Alexander attracted national attention after she was sentenced in 2012 to 20 years in prison for firing a shot near her estranged husband during an altercation. She argued she had fired a “warning shot” and unsuccessfully tried to use Florida’s “stand your ground” law as part of her defense.
According to Alexander, her estranged husband, Gray, accused her of having an affair and questioned whether their 9-day-old baby was his. She says she locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door and shoved her to the floor. She says she tried to escape through the garage but the door wouldn’t open. She retrieved a gun from a car, went back inside and says she fired a “warning shot” after Gray said he would kill her - an account backed by one of his sons. No one was injured.
Her husband denied abusing her and said she shot at him in anger after he insulted her former husband. Prosecutors insisted it wasn’t a warning shot because it hit the wall behind Gray and not the ceiling.
Alexander’s case became noticed because it was contrasted against what happened to George Zimmerman who was acquitted in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin after he said he shot the unarmed Martin in self-defense.
Alexander’s conviction was thrown out on appeal and she reached a plea deal in 2014. Her case was cited by legislators when they altered Florida’s mandatory sentencing law nearly three years ago.
Alexander was released from home detention this past week. She has begun the process of setting up the Marissa Alexander Justice Project which will not only focus on female victims of domestic violence but will be critical of minimum-mandatory sentences like the 20 years Alexander once faced after she was initially convicted.
She told the newspaper that her fame is still something she struggles with, rolling her eyes when a reporter tells her she’s famous but also acknowledging the oddity that many people who’ve never met her are familiar with her case.
“The surreal moment for me was getting mail from Great Britain and Australia,” Alexander said.