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Wednesday, 11 June 2014 02:05

Marissa Alexander trial date postponed to Dec. 1

Written by  Larry Hannan | Florida Times Union

Citing uncertainty over whether Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is about to change, the judge in Marissa Alexander’s criminal case has delayed her trial until Dec. 1. Alexander, 33, is charged with three counts of aggravated assault after firing a shot in the direction of her estranged husband, Rico Gray, and his two young children during an argument.

She was scheduled to go on trial July 28. But at a hearing Tuesday attorneys for Alexander asked for a delay.

“We don’t know what is going to happen with Stand Your Ground,” said attorney Bruce Zimet. “The July 28 trial date is not realistic.”

Assistant State Attorney London Kite agreed, also requesting the delay. Circuit Judge James Daniel responded by moving the trial back four months.

Daniel said it made more sense to postpone the high-profile trial now, before people start making plans to come to Jacksonville for the trial. He also agreed with Zimet’s contention that the uncertainty over Stand Your Ground made it difficult to try the case.

“I don’t believe you can really try this case until the dust is settled,” Daniel said.

The Florida Legislature passed a bill this year identified as a “warning-shot bill.” Partly inspired by Alexander, the legislation essentially expands Stand Your Ground to situations where someone fires a gun but doesn’t shoot anyone.

It also allows judges to depart from 10-20-life sentencing mandates when defendants had a good-faith belief that they were in danger. The state’s 10-20-life law now requires that anyone convicted of a crime involving the firing of a gun gets 20 years in prison.

The warning-shot bill has not yet been signed or vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott and it has not yet been sent to him.

Alexander previously claimed Stand Your Ground before she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. That conviction was later overturned on appeal and her attorneys are now requesting a second Stand Your Ground hearing.

Disagreements exist over whether the change in the law would apply to Alexander because her case has already begun. But after Tuesday’s hearing, defense attorney Faith Gay said if Scott signs the legislation it would apply to her client.

“We think this bill absolutely applies to Marissa,” Gay said. “The bill was written with her in mind.”

Zimet said the judge needs to rule on the law as it will be going forward, and it would be silly for Daniel to issue a ruling based on current law and then have to revisit it 30 days from now if the law has changed.

Prosecutors have previously said they do not believe the warning-shot bill is retroactive and don’t think any change applies to Alexander. They also oppose a second Stand Your Ground hearing, arguing that the appeals court upheld the denial of the Stand Your Ground motion in the first case even as they set aside Alexander’s conviction and 20-year sentence.

That conviction and sentence was set aside because Daniel made a mistake during jury instructions.

Daniel was originally scheduled to rule Tuesday on whether Alexander could have a second Stand Your Ground hearing and also consider whether a police search of her home after she was arrested could be suppressed. Those decisions were put off until the next scheduled hearing Aug. 1.

Alexander and her attorneys have insisted she wasn’t trying to hit Gray or his two children from a previous relationship when she fired a shot. She has said the incident, which happened days after she’d given birth, began when Gray accused her of infidelity and questioned whether the newborn child was his.

Alexander told him to leave and locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck and shoved her to the floor, according to police and court documents. She ran into the garage but found she couldn’t leave because the garage door wouldn’t open.

She got a gun from the glove compartment of a car in the garage, went back into the house and when Gray saw her, she said he charged, saying he was going to kill her. Alexander fired the gun.

Alexander said it was a warning shot while prosecutors say the bullet hit the wall, not the ceiling, and could have killed Gray or his children.

Link to original article from The Florida Times Union

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