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It took nearly a year’s worth of violent physical abuse before Marissa Alexander decided to stand her ground against her husband.
On Aug. 1, 2010, her husband cornered her in their Jacksonville, Fla., home. Alexander said she ran to the garage to escape, but the garage door was jammed, so Alexander grabbed a pistol. Her husband, Rico Gray, 36, saw the gun and threatened to kill her, Alexander would later say in court documents.
Fearing for her life, she raised the pistol above her head and squeezed the trigger, the crackle of gunfire pelting the kitchen ceiling.
While the shooting may have gotten Alexander out of one jam, it put her in another: She has been in a Florida jail since 2010 awaiting a mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
The 31-year-old mother of three has said that she believes she had a legal right to protect herself that day under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which gives citizens expanded rights to use force when threatened with bodily harm. But moments after the shooting, Gray ran outside and called police alleging that Alexander shot at him and his two sons. Alexander was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Gray later changed his story about the shooting. During a court hearing to determine whether or not Alexander could be protected under the Stand Your Ground Law, Gray said he’d lied during his earlier deposition and that he “begged and pleaded for my life when she had the gun.”
A judge rejected Alexander’s Stand Your Ground defense, saying that she could have escaped her attacker “through the front or back door,” court records say. The State Attorney’s Office offered her a plea deal that would have sent her to prison for a few years, but she rejected it, hoping to convince a jury that she was defending herself.
It took a jury 12 minutes to find her guilty.
Under the state’s mandatory sentencing guidelines, Alexander faces a 20-year prison sentence with no chance of early release. She could be sentenced as early as next week, but at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Alexander will be in court for a pre-sentencing hearing, where her attorneys will ask for a new trial.
“This is my life I’m fighting for,” Alexander said in an interview with CNN. “If you do everything to get on the right side of the law, and it is a law that does not apply to you, where do you go from there?”