Big name feminists are about to fall on their faces in the Marissa Alexander case, if they haven’t already done so. President of the National Organization for Women, Terry O’Neill and president of NOW’s Florida affiliate, Donna Slutiak, are calling for the resignation of Jacksonville prosecutor Angela Corey. Her offense? Corey has refiled charges against Marissa Alexander who was convicted in 2011 of multiple counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. Here’s the latest (WTXL, 3/6/14). And here’s a good summary of the case (Media Trackers, 7/16/13).
What’s knotted NOW’s knickers? As you might guess, Alexander claims she should be acquitted of her crime because she was defending herself against a violent boyfriend. Of course she’s reading directly from the feminist script, so O’Neill and Slutiak have gone to bat for her. Here’s the whole of their press release on the matter.
“The Office of State Attorney Angela Corey will seek to put Marissa Alexander in prison for 60 years if she is convicted for a second time. Alexander was previously sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband in Jacksonville, FL. Her conviction was overturned on appeal, but State Attorney Angela Corey wasted no time refiling the same charges and a retrial is scheduled to begin July 28.
Corey claims to be following Florida law in seeking a new 60 year sentence, but prosecutors have extremely wide discretion in deciding what charges to bring against a person in the first place, including deciding not to prosecute at all if the prosecutor determines that the Stand Your Ground law applies. Instead of using her prosecutorial discretion in a responsible manner, Corey is misusing her office in a way that endangers the lives of domestic violence survivors. That she would try to mislead the public about her role in the criminal justice system of Florida only adds to the outrageousness of her conduct.
If Alexander were to receive a 60-year sentence, what would that mean for other domestic violence victims who try to defend themselves? Survivors need support from our legal system, not fear of being convicted if they stand their ground against their abuser. Corey should resign from her position and be replaced with a State Attorney that will defend victims, not prosecute them.”
Now, let me be clear at the outset. I agree with NOW that 60 years in prison would be far too harsh a sentence for anyone who did what Alexander did – fire a shot in the direction of, and miss, her boyfriend Rico Gray and his two young sons. But unsurprisingly, the NOW officers get the rest of it wrong.
Back in the August of 2010, Alexander gave birth to a child who may have been fathered by Gray or perhaps by her ex-husband, Lincoln Alexander. Three days after giving birth, Alexander left the child in the hospital and went to Gray’s house. He wasn’t home, but she parked in his garage, let herself in and spent the night there. (The two were nominally a couple, but Alexander hadn’t lived in Gray’s house for two months prior to her unannounced arrival.)
When Gray showed up the next morning, he cooked breakfast for the two adults and his two sons who were with him. All went well until Alexander handed him her phone on which she had photos of her newborn. She encouraged Gray to scroll through the photos while she retired to the bathroom. Gray was glad to see the photos of the child until he ran across text messages to Alexander’s ex that strongly suggested the baby was his, not Gray’s. Upset about her apparent attempt at paternity fraud, Gray opened the bathroom door and confronted Alexander. An argument ensued. What happened next is the nut of the controversy.
Here’s Alexander’s side of the story as she told it in court and as reiterated by the appellate court:
After Mr. Gray accused her of infidelity and questioned the paternity of her week-old baby, she testified, she locked the bathroom door, yelling at him to leave, but Mr. Gray broke through the door, grabbed her by her neck, and demanded to know when she last had sexual relations with her ex-husband. She tried to push past him but he shoved her hard into the bathroom door. After struggling for what felt like an “eternity,” she testified, he relented and she ran from the bathroom straight to the garage.
Once inside the garage, appellant testified, she tried to leave the premises altogether but could not get the garage door open, and instead retrieved a gun (for which she had a permit) from the glove compartment of a vehicle in the garage. She then walked back into the house, she said, holding the gun by her side because she did not know whether Mr. Gray had left or not. As she walked into the kitchen, Mr. Gray saw the gun, and charged her “in a rage,” saying, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” Startled, she raised the gun into the air and fired. Mr. Gray ran. According to appellant, she was forced to fire her gun into the air as a warning shot because it was the “lesser of two evils.”
This incident followed a two-year period during which Mr. Gray had apparently been violent toward Alexander on more than one occasion. He was arrested at least once, friends and relatives testified he had a reputation in the community for violence and others had seen bruises on Alexander they understood to have been inflicted by Gray. A defense expert testified that Alexander “met the criteria for ‘battered person’s syndrome.’”
By contrast, the jury also heard testimony the trial judge described this way:
At this point, Rico Gray Sr. opened the bathroom door to confront the Defendant regarding the texts. A verbal argument ensued between the Defendant and Rico Gray Sr. For this reason, Rico Gray Sr. stepped out of the bathroom and yelled for his sons to put their shoes on because they were leaving. Rico Gray Sr. returned to the bathroom and demanded that the Defendant explain the texts and the verbal argument continued. During the verbal argument Rico Gray Sr. stood in the doorway to the bathroom and the Defendant could not get around him. Either Rico Gray Sr. moved from the doorway or the Defendant pushed around him to exit the bathroom.
Rico Gray Sr. moved to the living room where his children were. Subsequently, the Defendant emerged from the master bedroom and went into the garage where her car was parked. The Defendant testified she was trying to leave the residence but could not get the garage door to open. (The Court notes that despite the Defendant’s claim she was in fear for her life at that point and trying to get away from Rico Gray she did not leave the house through the back or front doors which were unobstructed. Additionally, the garage door had worked previously and there was no evidence presented to support her claim.) The Defendant then retrieved her firearm from the glove box of the vehicle. The Defendant returned to the kitchen with the firearm in her hand and pointed it in the direction of all three Victims. Rico Gray Sr. put his hands in the air. The Defendant shot at Rico Gray Sr., nearly missing his head. The bullet traveled through the kitchen wall and into the ceiling in the living room. The Victims fled the residence and immediately called 911. The Defendant stayed in the marital home and at no point called 911. The Defendant was arrested on the date of the incident.
The Defendant posted bail prior to arraignment and was ordered by the Court and signed a document through Pretrial Services stating she was to have no contact with the Victims in the instant case. However, the Defendant continued to have contact with the Victims in this case, more specifically with Rico Gray Sr.
Once out on bail, Alexander not only contacted Gray, she assaulted him, was re-arrested and her bail was revoked.
The trial judge found that as a matter of fact and law, Alexander was not entitled to immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Here’s the appellate court’s ruling.
Those are the two dueling sets of evidence in the case for whose defendant, NOW has gone to bat. As the concurring appellate judge stated, “it appears the jury rejected Appellant’s version of events.” That’s putting it mildly. It took the jury just 12 minutes to convict Alexander. She was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison, but the appellate court ruled that the trial judge had given an erroneous instruction on the issue of self-defense, so Alexander will get the new trial Angela Corey is giving her.
Apparently Corey has announced that she’ll attempt to convince a jury to sentence Alexander to 60 years in prison, which, as I said, is clearly excessive given the nature of the crime.
Whatever the final outcome, NOW has chosen this case to draw its line in the sand. It’s an unwise choice. Oh, I know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking that, because Corey was the prosecutor who failed to get a conviction in the George Zimmerman case, they’ll get enough liberal backing to at least smear her and, in the process get some press for the “battered woman” claim.
First, they claim Corey should simply refuse to prosecute a woman who discharged a firearm in the direction of a man and his two children. I can’t imagine why any prosecutor would do that, but NOW’s officers seem to think the case has something to do with Stand Your Ground. It doesn’t. Had O’Neil and Slutiak actually read the findings of the trial judge, they’d know that Alexander tried to assert SYG immunity and failed as she obviously should have.
The rest of the NOW press release is just Nonsense 101. They want us to believe that Alexander shouldn’t be prosecuted because it would discourage other DV victims from “defending themselves.” But that conveniently overlooks the fact that the jury found that Alexander was doing no such thing, and indeed never seriously considered the possibility. Twelve minutes in the jury room is just long enough to say, “Does anyone here think she should be acquitted? No? Well, let’s try to figure out this form the judge gave us,” and then actually fill out the form. NOW will never admit it, but no one on the jury had the slightest doubt about Marissa Alexander’s guilt.
That may be because the jurors noticed certain things about Alexander’s behavior that O’Neill and Slutiak will never tell you. First, she had three avenues of escape – the garage and the front and back doors. She’d gone unhindered into the garage but, instead of simply leaving, she got the pistol and re-entered the house.
Second, if she believed her life was in danger, why didn’t she call the police once Gray and his boys had fled? He was the one to dial 911, not her. That’s not exactly the behavior of someone in fear for her life.
Finally, after her arrest and release on bail, Alexander returned to Gray’s house several times even though she was forbidden to do so by court order. Again, those aren’t the actions of someone who’s afraid the other person is a danger to her.
NOW will tell you that Gray himself admitted to Alexander’s version of events, which indeed he did. What NOW won’t tell you is that he did so only to try to help Alexander beat the rap. He later recanted his deposition testimony.
It’s beginning to look like the U.S. isn’t Canada in which seemingly a claim by a woman of domestic abuse at the hands of a man gives her carte blanche to commit any form of violence against him she chooses. The cases out of Canada in which women get a judicial pass for their violent – sometimes murderous – crimes are too numerous to list. But suffice it to say, there are enough to prompt one veteran Canadian prosecutor, David M. Paciocco, to refer to “battered woman syndrome” this way:
[I]t is a prime illustration of what is known in the literature as “junk science.” Indeed, it flatters the theory to call it “science” at all…[i]
So it’s no surprise that feminism not only embraces the concept, but created it out of whole cloth. I won’t go into all the absurdities of “battered woman syndrome,” which, in any case, are well-known to readers of this site. But to me the salient feature of Lenore Walker’s brainchild is the fact that literally any behavior on the part of the woman can be called evidence of it.
Does she deny physical abuse by her partner? That’s proof of BWS because it shows she’s under his control and will say anything to support him. Does she say he did physically abuse her? That’s also proof of the syndrome. Is there no evidence of physical abuse? She’s still a “battered” woman because “battered woman syndrome” doesn’t require her to have been, well, battered. Psychological abuse is sufficient. Does she never tell any friends, relatives, police, lawyers, doctors, co-workers, neighbors, counsellors, etc. that she’s abused? That proves he’s controlling her. Does she tell some of those people? That’s proof of abuse. Does she take no reasonable action to separate herself from the man she claims is abusing her? That’s “learned helplessness,” a key element of the syndrome. Does she take that reasonable action? That’s proof of abuse.
You get the picture. “Battered woman syndrome” is a continuous reaffirmation loop; every fact, every allegation is yet more evidence that a man’s abuse has rendered his female partner incapable of functioning as an autonomous adult. Until she does. In ways never explained by BWS proponents, shooting the man is yet more proof of “learned helplessness.”
Needless to say, NOW’s claim that Marissa Alexander is a “survivor” of domestic violence is so much claptrap. Yes, Gray has been violent toward her, but of course she’s been violent in return. Theirs looks very much like one of those relationships in which one violent person finds another and romance blossoms.
Those relationships are far more complex and ambiguous than the likes of Terry O’Neill will ever admit. Alexander returned time and again to Gray; he gave testimony trying to protect her from criminal responsibility. That’s co-dependency, not “battered someone syndrome.” Feminists’ preferred narrative of “woman – good, man – bad” is almost never accurate. The 13 people who know the most about the case – the judge and the jury – didn’t buy it, and neither does Angela Corey, who seems to think she’ll have no problem getting another conviction.
If Marissa Alexander is the type of “victim” NOW wants to back, they’ll get no argument from me. I’m perfectly happy to watch them fall on their faces in public. But it’s telling that she’s the horse they’ve chosen to ride. Can’t they find someone, somewhere who’s a bit more sympathetic? Apparently not.
And that alone tells us all we need to know about “battered woman syndrome” and the theory that any woman who cries “domestic violence” should be able to shoot – or shoot at – her male partner.
Last year, a survey conducted for the Huffington Post revealed that only 23% of Americans call themselves feminists. My guess is that it’s stuff like this that explains that pathetic showing.
- [i] Paciocco, David M.; Getting Away with Murder: The Canadian Criminal Justice System, Irwin Law, 1999, p. 306.