2:16pm May 15, 2012

Angela Corey Speaks on Marissa Alexander


Florida State Attorney Angela Corey spoke with Politic365 on Friday after Marissa Alexander, 31, was sentenced to twenty years in prison.  Alexander, of Jacksonville, FL, was sentenced under a mandatory minimum sentencing requirement known as 10-20-Life for an incident on August 1, 2010 in which she discharged a handgun, but no one was shot or killed or injured.  Alexander has been incarcerated since February 8, 2011.  She had no previous criminal record before the Aug. 2010 incident.

A motion to invoke stand your ground immunity in Alexander’s case was denied last year.

When Corey was asked if she was comfortable with the Alexander prosecution, she answered: “We send a lot of people for 20 years on armed robbery where no one is shot or killed.  How do we convince people not to use guns to commit crimes and not to use guns as a way to solve their marital problems? No. There is a strong message in not using a gun to commit a crime,” Corey answered.

From 1979 to 2004, the the average sentence for murder in Florida was 19 years.

Experts on mandatory minimum sentencing were stunned by Alexander’s sentence. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) Florida Director Greg Newburn called it “shockingly unjust.”  FAMM’s National Director Julie Stewart wrote that Alexander’s husband, “was threatening to kill her … He had physically abused her in the past, one time sending her to the hospital.”  In fact, the husband, Rico Gray, confirmed the physical abuse of his wife in a sworn deposition.

Alexander had an order of protection out on her husband, Rico Gray, Sr., since Sept 2009 and documents confirm she was the victim of domestic violence.  Alexander’s sentencing comes two months after Trayvon Martin was shot to death by George Zimmerman in Florida.  Many find it disturbing that two possible stand your ground cases could have such different outcomes.

In the case of Marissa Alexander she discharged a weapon, yet killed no one - and was sentenced to 20 years. In the case of George Zimmerman, he shot and killed Trayvon Martin and was released by police that same night only to be charged and arrested for second degree murder 46 days later after widespread protest and national attention.

“If you are black, the system will treat you differently. A mere fifty miles away in Sanford Florida, a white man who shot a black teenager and claimed self-defense was not even arrested until community leaders and people around the world expressed their outrage,” Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), who represents Sanford and Jacksonville, FL said in a statement after Alexander’s sentence.  “The three year plea deal from Angela Corey is not mercy and a mandatory twenty year sentence is not justice,” Brown added.

Both the Martin/Zimmerman and Alexander cases involve the same prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey of Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit Court, which includes Duval County.  She has been praised by many, including Brown, for charging Zimmerman with second degree murder.  Now some are questioning her office’s handling of the Marissa Alexander case.

During a 25 minute interview with Politic365, Corey wanted to make it clear that Marissa Alexander had shot in the direction of her husband Rico Gray, Sr. during their argument on August 1, 2010 and that Alexander assaulted her husband in a separate incident on December 30, 2010 which landed her back in jail.

“They can not tell the public that she fired a warning shot into the ceiling that is simply not what happened,” Corey said. “She aimed the gun in the direction of Mr. Gray and the two boys,” Corey asserted.  “This was definitely not a warning shot.  He was in the living room with the two boys right next to him getting ready to go out the front door and she fired the gun right at the wall — we’ve got photos you can see,” Corey said.

“It was the photos and talking to the boys that convinced me. It’s not a warning shot when you fire and it comes in at about head level through the wall and only then goes up into the ceiling and into the living room,” Corey said.  “This gun had a seven pound trigger pull.  So this isn’t a hair trigger — this isn’t an accident.  You can not aim a gun at three unarmed people.  These were not burglars in her home these were her step children,” the Florida prosecutor explained.

Lincoln Alexander, Marissa Alexander’s first husband who brought media attention to her case with the site Justice for Marissa strongly disagrees.  He pointed out that one of Rico Gray Sr.’s sons recanted his testimony in open court and believes that the moment triggered Corey’s 3-year plea deal offer to Marissa Alexander in March 2011.

“I’m really surprised that someone in Ms. Corey’s position would make false statements about a case that are so far off base,” argues Lincoln Alexander.  ”Please understand that Ms. Corey released only one of four photos to prove her point.  If you look at all 4 photos, it is apparent that the confrontation took place in the kitchen. The single shot, went through the sheet rock in an upward direction and the bullet went through the wall and entered into the ceiling.  The trajectory of the bullet does not support Ms. Corey’s statement.”

Congresswoman Brown attended Alexander’s sentencing on Friday and challenged Corey in a hallway after.  Brown believes that Alexander being a victim of domestic violence should have been an important mitigating factor.  “Abused women like Marissa, who has a master’s degree and no prior record, need support and counseling so they don’t find themselves in these situations to begin with,” Brown said.

Already there is a talk of a national day of protest on Alexander’s behalf and renewed focus on mandatory minimum sentencing policies.

“This cannot be what then-Gov. Jeb Bush and the legislature intended when they passed the 10-20-Life gun law. It cannot be what Gov. Scott and the legislature support today,” FAMM’s Stewart concluded in an essay on Alexander’s case.

“This is just the beginning, not the end,” Congresswoman Brown said strongly.

LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus.  She is heard every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WPFW every Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Washington DC. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter at @crewof42.

About the Author

Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist who analyses politics and justice reform. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke has also been a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears weekly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin. She has also appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton and Up with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC. She is also a contributing writer for NBCNews.com and TheRoot.com Ms. Burke has also authored three books of photography including two on President Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee. Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. E-mail: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. Instagram: LVB325.



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  1. Thank you for writing a balanced article that presents both sides of this intriguing case. Being a woman myself, I'm trying very hard to understand State Attorney Angela Corey's position on this case. From the hard-line (almost zero-tolerance) approach she is taking with Marissa Alexander, I can't help wondering if she is one of those women who are so concerned about not being accused of being soft on fellow women that she's going to extreme lengths to show that she isn't. Psychologists refer to this as the "pendulum swing" and this is fine when you're dealing with behavioral manifestations (e.g., someone who used to smoke heavily goes into coughing fits when someone lights up a cigarette) but is definitely not fine when dealing with someone's freedom.

    Marissa Alexander should not be sentenced to 20 years in prison just because Angela Corey wants to look tough, or whatever Ms. Corey's motives may be. I urge everyone interested in justice to speak up and ask Ms. Corey to review her position, or appeal to the Governor (or whoever has the authority to overrule her) to review this case.

    • Kevin P.

      Angela Corey seems to be anti-gun and anti-self defense. It is absolutely outrageous that she would prosecute a battered wife for trying to defend herself.

  2. A_Travesty

    "Michelle," I agree with you. I am a woman also, and a Black woman. Although I do not condone the violence committed by Marissa Alexander her sentence of 20 years is too harsh, and a great travesty. It is abusive! Twenty years in this case sends out many messages. One is that Florida will not condone domestic violence of any kind, and another is that it is always best to leave an abusive situation. However, Marissa Alexander is now a victim of Florida's inconsistent and malicious judicial system. She has been made an example of how Whites in places of authority will abuse their power. This is an example of how Whites now use the judicial system to publicly hang Blacks. Perhaps after an appeal a higher court will properly convict, yes, but have compassion. BLACK PEOPLE: BECOME AND ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO BECOME AUTHORITY FIGURES IN THE US JUDICIAL SYSTEM. I caution you: Most Whites do not have compassion for Blacks. That is a fact.

  3. EJF

    I believe since Rico Gray had already abused what is it four other baby mamas, he knows how to play the system. First one to yell foul gets the justice. I was in an abusive relationship and I know they can take you down with them. You try to help them but they are just out to destroy you. I know there is a war on blacks but the biggest war is on women . I have been told that I should not talk back to a man. That I shouldn't have a posted job because I was a woman – a federal job that my co workers-men- were told not to let me know about. And once I got the job- I put up with crap for 30 years But , I made it in spite of them. Women try so hard to please men and that is all well and good. But please let us stand for eachother too. We are 51 % of the population yet we are treated as second class citizens by this Patriarcal Society. Marissa fell into an abusive love trap and now is being punished by an abusive society.

  4. Kimora Cochran

    This is a sad sad story all the way around. Marrissa is being punished for being abused. Just-a-system

  5. We mentioned politic365 here and show the pictures of the shot in the wall that angela is referring to. http://www.letstalkaboutit.info/2012/05/different

    If you take a look at the pictures, it is so clear that either a)Marissa isn't aiming at anybody or b) she has the worst aim ever.

  6. Deuce

    The sentence is definitely unfair but that's because of the Mandatory Minimum law in Florida. I feel for Marrissa and for Rico's boys. They will be psychologically damaged from all the abuse they've seen AND from being in the same room when an adult shot a gun.

    It's hard to see where Marrissa's life was threatened during this incident. It appears as if she had the opportunity and the space to leave the house but for whatever reason she didn't.

    She also did herself in by giving Rico a black eye 4 months after the shooting incident. TheGrio.com has pictures and a police report where Marrissa went to Rico's place and fought him, resulting in a swollen and bloody eye. She pled "no contest" to that charge. After that incident, it's hard to keep seeing her as a victim. She seemed to place herself in harm's way AFTER the judge issued a restraining order against her and ordered her to stay away from Rico and vice/versa.

    I'm sorry. You just can't claim "Stand Your Ground" and appear without a scratch. You have to convince the prosecutor (and the evidence has to match) that your very life was in danger. Rico didn't chase her into the garage. That's a problem. Angela Corey charged her specifically because of the danger Marrissa put those children in by letting off a shot in their presence. It took the jury 13 minutes to find Marrissa guilty. They must've agreed with Angela Corey.

    Remember Plaxico Burress? He got three years just because his gun went off in the club. He shot HIMSELF but the judge cited the danger he placed everyone else in. Angela Corey must've felt the same way about those children.

  7. RayRay

    No way should she get 20 years for firing a gun and giving someone a black eye. Under no circumstances. When white people like Corey throw black lives into the garbage no one cares. Period.

  8. Guest

    corrine brown is so racist herself she thinks everyone is.Fair if fair Alexander and Zimmerman neither benefiting fro stand your ground.Angela Corey is tough on crime and will not let anyone out if they are trying to use the sytem,She believes in justice for all and equally and thats why we voted her in.The previous state atty. to quick to plea bargain. You go Angela we'll relect you. Corrine need to stick to voting in congress and star preparing to retire.She is an embarrsamentto our community and hopefully in Nov. we will have a common sense person in congress.Its obvious she has none.

  9. james

    Ms Corey was out to hang Marissa; well, she won and Marissa will not likely see her kids for many years. I would ask Gov Scott to step in, but he has other problems"voter purging"; Florida is full of crooks

  10. […] In 2012, Corey was interviewed by Politic365.  When Corey was asked if she was comfortable with the Alexander prosecution, she answered: “We send a lot of people for 20 years on armed robbery where no one is shot or killed.  How do we convince people not to use guns to commit crimes and not to use guns as a way to solve their marital problems? No. There is a strong message in not using a gun to commit a crime.” […]

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