There was outrage in the streets of Florida, or at a minimum in the media. George Zimmerman gets away with killing a black teenager while using a firearm, and a black woman, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted by a jury of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for firing a warning shot in effort to get her husband to desist from physical abuse after a history of physical abuse. Racism was the cry. However, the First District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida cried bad jurisprudence.
On the 26th day of September 2013, the First District Court of Appeals reversed Marissa Alexander’s conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentence of twenty years in prison in the case of Alexander v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2067a (Fla. 1st DCA 2013). The court did not find that Ms. Alexander was immune from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, but found that the jury instruction provided by the court to the jury improperly put the burden on Ms. Alexander to prove she acted in self-defense as opposed to putting the burden on the prosecution to prove she did not act in self-defense.
Many people were outraged that George Zimmerman was found not guilty and Marissa Alexander was found guilty. They protested how could George Zimmerman be found to have stood his ground lawfully and Ms. Alexander could not. But, in actuality, George Zimmerman was not found to have stood his ground lawfully because if that were the case the judge, Judge Deborah Nelson, would have had to dismiss the case (thrown it out) prior to a jury ever getting the chance to decide the outcome. Under the stand your ground law in Florida, if the court finds a person stood his ground in self-defense the person is immune from prosecution. See Clarence Dennis v. the State of Florida, 51 So.3d 456 (Fla. 2010). No one found that George Zimmerman was immune from prosecution. The jury found that there was insufficient evidence to overcome his defense that he acted in self-defense after being properly instructed on the burden of proof and when self-defense is permitted.
The jury, in Ms. Alexander’s case, was misinformed. The jury was instructed: