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Judge to allow domestic abuse testimony if Alexander testifies

Jury selection for retrial set to begin Dec. 1

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The judge in Marissa Alexander's case said at a hearing Wednesday he would allow testimony at trial about her ex-husband's prior incidents of domestic abuse only if Alexander takes the stand to talk about his abusive treatment of her.

Alexander faces three counts of aggravated armed assault for an incident when she fired a shot into a wall near where her then-estranged husband, Rico Gray, and his two sons were standing.

The judge said he would allow women who used to be in relationships with Gray to testify that they too were abused by him.

A 25-page order details Gray's past relationships.

DOCUMENT: Order on Marissa Alexander motion

"The court finds that the testimony of Ms. Anderson, Ms. Gray, and Ms. Hunter was more credible than the testimony of Mr. Gray as to what happened in these specific incidents," the order reads.

Under what's called the "Reverse Williams Rule," the defense filed the order of intent to introduce into evidence prior acts of misconduct committed by Gray. That includes Gray's former wife, fiance and girlfriend, who the defense said testified at a previous hearing that they were assaulted by Gray.

Judge James Daniel granted the order in part. He's allowing their testimonies into evidence, but under certain conditions, including the defense having to first establish this was self-defense.

That likely means Alexander will take the stand as she did in her first trial.

With Alexander by his side, defense attorney Bruce Zimet spoke after the hearing. He said Alexander has been on house arrest and is ready to be home permanently with her kids.

"Obviously she wants to be with her family and she loves her children, and she's an incredible mother, and I think her kids speak for her parenting skills themselves," Zimet said.

Also Wednesday, Alexander's defense lawyer asked the judge again to allow her to have a "stand your ground" immunity hearing, but that was again denied.

The state also filed motions to limit testimony of two expert witnesses who specialize in battered women, their abusers and domestic violence. One is a professor at Georgetown University and the other is a psychologist from Gainesville. Daniel will consider those motions during the next and likely final pretrial hearing Nov. 25.

Jury selection for Alexander's retrial is set for Dec. 1.

In her first trial, Alexander was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison, but the conviction was overturned due to problems with jury instructions.

Free Marissa Now group supporters said they are going to continue to fight for her freedom until the end. They said she was a victim of domestic violence and was protecting herself.

Gene Nichols, a local attorney not affiliated with this case, pointed out some new motions he expected to be brought up in court Wednesday.

"Presumably, the state has attained those photos in order to counteract any argument from the defense of a battered wife or spouse syndrome of her being in fear of her life to show there have been times that she was not in fear of her life," Nichols said.

Nichols said one motion is the prosecution's request to use photos as evidence. He believes the photos show Alexander with Gray, which the state could be trying to use to portray a relationship without abuse.

"I'm sure what were considering are photos of the defendant at the victim's home with children giving the appearance everything is OK, that she wasn't having any problems at the time during those photos, being in the home with the alleged victim," Nichols said.

Denise Hunt, along with others in the group Free Marissa Now, stand by Alexander, saying she was firing a warning shot and protecting herself from an abusive relationship.

"I can't speak for her because I wasn't there, but certainly reacted towards him because of his past history with violence, and I think that's a practical point of view that should be considered," Hunt said.