September 28, 2013

Another Opportunity to Show Up for Conservatives: Marissa Alexander Wins New Trial

From Battered Wife to Battered Citizen 

Marissa Alexander

Marissa Alexander has gone from being battered by her abusive husband to being battered by an inflexible criminal justice system. But she got some good news this past week. 

The Florida Court of Appeals has overturned her conviction and granted Marissa Alexander a new trial.  The appeals court cited the jury instructions provided at trial as being fundamentally flawed. The appeals did court upheld the outcome of her Stand Your Ground hearing, so there will not be a new SYG hearing.  However, she will get a new trial.  Hopefully, this time around, evidence of her husbands abuse and prior behavior with other women will not be kept from the jury, as it was in her first trial.  The press release by her attorneys can be read here

At her trial, volumes of mitigating and exculpatory evidence were withheld from the jury. Her husband Rico had tried to frame two different partners previously.  Not admissible.  Rico had beaten Marissa into the hospital previously.  Not admissible.  Rico had a long history of violence against women.  Not admissible.  Rico had a restraining order against him and if he had obeyed it none of this would have happened.  Not admissible.  Rico's testimony was purchased by the prosecution by not trying him for violating the restraining order Marissa had against him.  Not admissible.  All of the women in his prior relationships had lived in terror of this man.  Not admissible.  Marissa was an excellent shot and could have riddled him with bullets.  Not introduced.  Marissa most likely was suffering from post partum depression, traumatic brain injury, and or post traumatic stress disorder.  Not introduced. Under Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing laws, Marissa received a sentence of 20 years in prison. Ironically, she might have received a lesser sentence under Florida law if she had actually killed Gray and been convicted of manslaughter.

Call to Action for Conservatives and the GOP

This is not a Black-White issue, as the Martin case has become. Although she is Black, domestic abuse is not a social condition that only impacts minorities or the poor. Domestic abuse cuts across socioeconomic lines to remain the “dirty little secret” costing Americans thousands of broken lives and $700 million in lost business productivity annually.
For conservatives that regularly talk about the impact of the family on America’s future and the waste of resources as we struggle to revive our economy, the Alexander case highlights much of what we stand for.

What conservatives should do:

  • Respectfully call on the Florida Asst. Attorney General's office to reconsider and withdraw the states resistance to Marissa's appeal 
  • Raise/contribute money to support court costs. Her lawyers are working pro bono. 
  • Collaborate with African American community organizations and citizens to analyze, investigate and craft criminal justice system reforms
  • Support sensible reforms to mandatory minimum sentencing laws

Whether conservatives want to address this case on the issue of SYG application in domestic violence cases, ameliorating unintended mandatory sentencing impacts or exploring concerns of racial disparity in the application of SYG statutes, conservatives should engage and courageously dialogue with black voters around these and other issues of criminal justice reform when legitimate issues are raised.

African Americans have frequent contact with the criminal justice system as both victims and defendants. Criminal justice reforms are an issue of significance to this voter segment.  African American voters are as interested in appropriate sanction for crime as much and perhaps more than other communities. However, the African American historical and current experience of the criminal justice system is replete with examples of justice denied or injustice imposed by a legal system whose judgments they are bound to respect. 

That ongoing experience makes this voter segment very sensitive to criminal justice reform issues. As conservatives who are traditionally concerned with the rule of law, this is a sound foundation and opportunity for engagement with black voters on the fair and equitable administration of justice.  If we are serious as conservatives and as the republican party about winning support from African American voters, then we must get into the thick of gateway issues such as criminal justice reform, in the very same manner that we have determined we must engage on immigration reform in order to get a hearing on our ideas from the Hispanic community.

Its been said that in life, eighty percent of success is just showing up.  So too with politics. Democrats understand this well.  Where are the conservative faces and voices on Marissa's behalf?  African American voters pay attention to who stands with them in response to real or perceived injustice. Conservatives need to show up.