JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After spending almost two years behind bars, Marissa Alexander is free -- for now. But a retrial is looming after her conviction was thrown out on appeal in November.
Alexander's case drew national attention in 2012 after she was sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting a gun in the direction of her estranged husband and his two children. If she's convicted of three gun crimes again, her new prison sentence would be 60 years under state sentencing guidelines.
"We just think it's completely outrageous, vindictive, an incredible harassment and threat against Marissa Alexander in an incident where she was in fear for her life and took the only action she saw possible," said one supporter.
Alexander was found guilty of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Each count carries a 20-year sentence, but the judge ordered those sentences to be served concurrently. A recent court opinion said such sentences should be served consecutively.
"People believe the penalty far outweighs the seriousness of the crime," said Ed Birk, a local attorney who has followed the Alexander case.
He points to the upcoming legislative session in Tallahassee and the so-called "warning-shot" bill. If passed, it would create an exception to the 10-20-Life law, and could prevent someone from having to serve prison time if they were judged to have fired a "warning shot." Birk said any change in the law might not affect the Alexander case.
"If the Legislature enacts some change it might take effect July 1 or it may take effect Oct. 1 or any time they set," Birk said. "That's typically when new laws take effect. If it's not applied retroactively, she may still be sentenced under the current sentencing scheme."
Alexander's supporters believe if she is convicted again and sentenced to 60 years, it could have a chilling effect on those victimized by domestic violence.
"This case, it affects every woman everywhere in the country," Birk said. "I think that's why people, actually all over the world are coming forward to voice their thoughts and their fears of what's happening with this case."
Before her first trial, the state attorney's office says Alexander turned down an offer of a three-year sentence for pleading guilty to a lesser crime. In a statement released Monday, the state attorney's office said: "Ms. Alexander has rejected all efforts by the State to resolve the case short of trial."
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