JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Marissa Alexander, a woman whose case helped bring national attention to Florida's stand your ground and minimum sentencing laws, was allowed to leave jail late Tuesday afternoon to spend the rest of her sentence on house arrest.
Applause broke out in the courtroom when Judge James Daniel announced he would reject the prosecutors' request for an additional two-year sentence and was releasing Alexander to community control.
As she left the courthouse, Alexander read a prepared statement:
"Today, after the sentence given by Judge Daniel, my family and I will be able to move on with our lives. Although the journey has been long and there's been many difficult moments, I could not have arrived here, where I am today, without the thoughts, many thoughts and many prayers of so many people who voiced their support and encouragement. Words can never express my gratitude for those who stood beside me, including my children and family. I am also grateful that Judge Daniel approached this case with such care and diligence."
In November, Alexander was sentenced to three years in jail after pleading guilty to three felony charges for firing a shot in the direction of her husband a two step-children. She got credit for all the time she was held after her initial arrest and first conviction, which was overturned on appeal. She was ordered to serve 65 days in jail, then two additional years under community control.
That time ended Tuesday.
The tension grew as the state cross-examined Alexander's sister, Elena Jenkins in whether or not she was aware of Alexander shooting towards the two children. After nearly two hours and Jenkins denying she was aware of Alexander shooting towards the children, the judge made his decision.
For the next two years Alexander must wear a GPS ankle monitor and will only be allowed to leave her home to go to work, job interviews, church, family medical and dental appointments, and to visit her children's schools. She'll have to get a judge's permission to do anything else.
That monitoring doesn't come cheap. It costs $105 a week, which that adds up to nearly $5,500. That's nearly $11,000 for Alexander's two years of community control.
"It's hard to get a job, it's hard to get housing, it's hard to qualify for anything. Her life has been destroyed for this," said local activist, Denise Hunt.
Although many of the supporters were upset about the judge's decision, Alexander walked out of the courthouse grateful to be given a second chance and even more grateful to see her teenagers go through college, her four year old grow through nursery school and herself through paralegal studies.?
Supporters have raised money to pay for those fees, and a group of pastors has offered Alexander a job at one of their ministries if she wants it.
"It gives her an opportunity to bring some closure to her situation," Rev. Kenneth Adkins said. "The most important part about this whole thing is it kind of gives Jacksonville this opportunity to put this behind us. This is one of those national spotlight stories that kind of cast bad light on our community and our leaders."
The case began in August 2010. Nine days after giving birth to her daughter, Alexander was assaulted and threatened by her estranged husband, Rico Gray. Alexander then left the house to get a gun from the garage, returned and fired a shot in the direction of Gray and his two young sons.
Alexander claimed it was a warning shot but a jury disagreed, convicting her on three counts of aggravated armed assault. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison under Florida's minimum sentencing guidelines for using a firearm.
But her conviction was overturned on appeal and as she was facing a retrial, she accepted a plea deal that will put her on house arrest after her release from jail.
Since her arrest in 2010, Alexander's been in jail for 1,095 days, serving the last 65 as part of her plea agreement.
Local attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters has also been following this case and said even though it may appear the decision favored the defense, the state also got what they wanted.
"They did in some way because remember-- Marissa Alexander has now been convicted of three felony convictions which she has to deal with for the rest of her life - she's also served that additional jail time and she'll be on ankle monitoring," said Peoples-Waters.
Peoples-Waters also said the state wanted additional probation but the judge said it was not appropriate.
"The state again gets to resolve this manner in a way that shows the victims in this case were affected by her actions," said Peoples-Waters.
According to Alexander's defense team and her signed plea deal, Alexander understood those actions. ?
Dozens showed showed their support for Alexander outside the Duval County Courthouse on Tuesday as they waited for Alexander to be released. They said they're thrilled that she's finally getting out of jail.
"I came all the way from California. I got on a plane last night at 8:30 to be with these women who care so much about Marissa Alexander and the injustice that is happening in our country," Bridget Duffy said.
They laid quilts on the front lawn of the courthouse Tuesday to show solidarity.
"It's a lot of pressure but we have been working a lot for this and finally she is free," said Wanda Gomez of Miami.
Alexander's statement concluded addressing her future.
"I look forward to the full-time challenge of getting my two teenagers through high school and into college, as well we preparing my 4-year-old daughter for nursery school. My goal is to continue my education beyond my master's degree and to continue my professional career. Also, I will continue to learn lessons from the events of the past, but I will not live in the past. At the age of 34, life is too short and there's too much I have to accomplish in the years ahead. It's my hope and prayer that everyone associated with this case will be able to move on with their lives."
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