Marissa Alexander Case Highlights Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Flaws

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The Marissa Alexander (pictured) case stands as one of the more baffling legal matters in some time, considering the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial in Florida earlier this year. Just as the former night watchman that shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin claimed self-defense, Alexander claimed the same against an abusive spouse.

SEE ALSO: UPDATE: Marissa Alexander Bail Hearing Delayed Until Wednesday

Yet, Zimmerman walks free despite evidence that suggests he should be serving time. Alexander, on the other hand, fired a warning shot at her husband and that landed her a 20-year prison sentence. Earlier Friday, Roland Martin spoke with attorney Glenn Ivey on the “NewsOne Now” show about the difficulties surrounding the Alexander case and how mandatory minimum sentencing binds the hands of those fighting for fairness in the courts of law.

Mr. Ivey was a former federal prosecutor in Washington, and Martin asked if he’s had a case where he knew a lesser charge could be applied despite the mandatory sentence, “We had a lot of cases, especially drug cases, where the drugs would elevate sentences to where there would be a mandatory minimum for it. And the guy was a first time offender, probably getting more time than he should have. There were some instances that were off the charts, 20-year sentences for first-time offenders.”

Watch the interview here:

Martin mentioned the case of Kemba Smith, a Hampton University student who was mixed up with a violent drug dealer. Smith pleaded guilty in 1994 drug conspiracy charges, and despite not having a criminal record, she was sentenced to 24.5 years. Smith eventually had her sentence commuted and was released in 2000.

But while Smith found justice, Alexander’s ordeal is even more baffling.

The details of her case have been bandied over at length, but the Jacksonville Mother of three maintains she was fighting off her estranged husband in 2010. Although no one was hurt in the shooting and she was a licensed firearm owner, the courts would not allow Alexander to invoke Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Critics of the law say that Stand Your Ground typically favors Whites over Blacks and doesn’t make for a fair cases.

Roland Martin’s Washington Watch interview with Marissa Alexander’s father and ex-husband. (Original air date 5/20/12)

Martin ran an earlier clip from a May 2012 “Washington Watch” episode, featuring Alexander’s father, Raul Jenkins, and her ex-husband, Lincoln Alexander, who is not the man she was defending herself against. As noted in the interview’s intro, the jury took just 12 minutes to convict Alexander and this is during the time when Zimmerman was still awaiting trial in his case. Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Alexander both commented on the case, with the father making a bold claim: “I’m not really sure, I can’t understand it myself…no one can. I just believe that this incident following the Trayvon Martin case [that] Marissa is being used as a scapegoat.”

Watch the interview here:

Alexander’s first husband explained to Martin the finer details of the case, saying that, according to his ex-wife, second husband Rico Gray flew in to a jealous rage after rifling through her cellphone and discovering text messages. Mr. Alexander then recounts his ex-wife’s statements that Gray was charging at her when she fired the warning blast, then took their two children outdoors and called 911. Gray says Alexander tried to shoot at him, prompting police to make an arrest.

Alexander was offered a three-year plea deal, but Jenkins says after a conversation with his daughter that she wanted to fight and maintain her innocence. That fight will continue next Wednesday, as a bail hearing that was set for earlier today has been rescheduled.

SEE ALSO: Marissa Alexander To Get New Trial

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