(Washington, DC) Congresswoman Brown made the following statement:
Earlier today, I watched in horror and extreme sadness as a judge sentenced Marissa Alexander, a documented victim of domestic violence, to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison for firing warning shot into the air after she was attacked by her husband. This African American woman didn’t hurt anyone and now she might not hug her children for twenty years.
The imbalance in this case was abundantly clear in the courtroom. On the State’s Attorney side of the room, I saw nine prosecutors and twenty officers. On Marissa’s side, I saw a lone defense attorney doing his best in what clearly an unfair fight. My first step in this case will be to bring in the nation’s best experts in domestic violence law.
The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today. One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the “Stand Your Ground Law” will not apply to them. Just minutes before the incident, Marissa’s husband told her “if I can't have you, nobody going to have you.” Millions of abused women have heard those words.
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. Arresting and prosecuting them when no one was hurt does not help anyone. Even worse, mandatory minimum sentences just make the system appear arbitrary and cruel.
The second message is that 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 arrest until community leaders and people around the world expressed their outrage. I have spoken to countless lawyers and they have yet to discover any cases in Florida where an African American was able to successfully use the “Stand Your Ground Law” defense in a hearing.” Another step I will take is to call for a study into racial disparities in the application of this law.
What I didn’t see in the courtroom today is mercy or justice. The three year plea deal from Angela Corey is not mercy and a mandatory twenty year sentence is not justice. I hope that the people will come to Marissa’s defense as the system has so utterly failed her. This is just the beginning, not the end.