Jesse Jackson revisits Jacksonville 'stand your ground' case

Civil rights activist calls Marissa Alexander's conviction 'travesty'

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Rev. Jesse Jackson spent about a hour Tuesday morning visiting with a Jacksonville woman serving a 20-year sentence after her "stand your ground" defense failed to sway a jury.

His visit with Marissa Alexander comes three days after a Seminole County jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman's lawyers won his acquittal, arguing he was defending himself.

After meeting with Alexander in the Duval County jail, Jackson called her case a travesty -- saying she is in jail only for trying to protect herself -- and will ask the state to review the case, which is currently on appeal.

"Here is a woman with three children, in jail for two and a half years, who did not shoot at anyone or anyone," Jackson said. "A woman who had been battered, shot her gun in the ceiling to protect herself."

Alexander was convicted last year of three counts of aggravated assault for firing a gun during a confrontation with her estranged husband.

Alexander (pictured, right) said her husband, Rico Gray, tried to strangle her on Aug. 1, 2010, after reading text messages she had sent her ex-husband. She said she escaped his grip and, instead of leaving out the front door, went into the garage to get into her car. But she said that in the confusion of the fight, she forgot her keys, so she took a gun and went back inside.

The mother of three says she fired a warning shot into the wall when he threatened her again.

The judge refused to grant Alexander immunity under Florida's stand-your-ground law, saying she had ample time to get away. Alexander rejected a plea deal of three years in prison, opting instead to take her case in front of jurors. They found her guilty in just 12 minutes.

Under Florida's 10-20-life law, Alexander was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years behind bars because she was convicted of aggravated assault where a firearm was discharged.

Jackson said he found Alexander in good spirits.

"She is in great resolve," Jackson said. "She is sensitive to being away from her children -- three children for nearly three years. But her spirit is amazing; her faith in God has sustained her."

The latest request for bond while the case is on appeal was denied last week, but her new attorney released a statement Monday saying that the appeal is continuing. 

"While the judicial system is not perfect, Marissa recognizes that the system is designed to correct mistakes when they are made," wrote attorney Bruce Zimet. "Marissa and her family remain confident that her conviction and sentence will be reversed and that Marissa will be able to return to her family."

After emerging from the jail about noon, Jackson tried to meet with State Attorney Angela Corey, asking that she retry the Alexander case before a different jury. She was not in the office, but they spoke by phone.

"I did not want to press her on a legal appeal because ours is a moral appeal to get a mother back with her children," Jackson said. "We're in this struggle for the long haul."

"Certainly a woman who has murdered no one shouldn't face 20 years when Zimmerman faces not a day," Jackson said. "This is a case that now the whole world is watching."

Jackson announced there will be a rally in support of Alexander at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Primitive Baptist Church on Myrtle Avenue.

"We think those that are protesting -- even now, even with Trayvon Martin -- protest with dignity, discipline and non-violence, because violence will shift the burden of sympathy," Jackson said.

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