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Posted

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - A woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a "warning shot" during an argument with her abusive husband won a new trial on Thursday in a case under Florida's controversial self-defense law.

A state appeals court ruled that Marissa Alexander, 32, deserved a new trial because the judge failed to properly instruct the jury regarding her claim of self-defense.

No one was injured in the shooting but because Alexander fired a gun in the incident, Florida's mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines required the judge to sentence her to 20 years in prison.

The case of Alexander, who is black, drew criticism from civil rights groups concerned about self-defense laws and mandatory minimum sentencing rules.

Alexander's fate received little attention until her May 2012 conviction in the wake of the case of volunteer watchman George Zimmerman who said he shot a teenager in self defense.

Under the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, people fearing for their lives can use deadly force without having to retreat from a confrontation, even when it is possible.

 The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee said in Thursday's ruling that the trial judge made a "fundamental error" when he instructed the jury that Alexander was required to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The defendant's burden is only to raise a reasonable doubt concerning self defense," Appeals Court judge Robert Benton wrote for the court.

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Posted

Firing a warning shot into the air gets you 20 years in prison o_O. I mean, I could see jail but 20 years? When no one was hurt? Seems pretty steep. I'd except that if you were actually trying to hurt/kill someone that the minimum time would be 20 years.

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Posted

So I guess the whole stand your ground thing isn't applied equally?

 

If you stand your ground and actually shoot & kill someone, you get let off. If you stand your ground but only fire a warning shot, 20 years.

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Posted

If you stand your ground and actually shoot & kill someone, you get let off. If you stand your ground but only fire a warning shot, 20 years.

Pretty much. It's a terrible law when it's enforced fairly; it's beyond contempt when it's enforced like this.

 

This case highlights how dangerous minimum sentences are, as they strip courts of the ability to make common sense rulings based on the merits of the case.

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Posted

If her life was in danger, then she did the right thing. If someone was about to attack me for no reason that could easily overpower me and I didn't know what they might be capable of, I don't know if I would had fired a warning shot. 

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Posted

If she was being threatened by an abusive hubby, she should be found innocent.

 

20 years, when no one was hurt, is ridiculous.

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Posted

what if she was trying to shoot her husband but missed, then called it a warning shot?

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Posted

^ Why didn't she shoot a second and third time ?

 

You would need to listen to the husband and wife in a trial to determine if it was self defense.

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Posted

The sad irony is, these are the kinds people SYG was actually intended to actually help. As much as I favour gun control this was a legitimate case of self defence, and nobody even got hurt. She should not be in prison.

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Posted

if you had a gun in your hands and enough time to fire a warning shot then how is your life in danger?

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Posted

^ Hubby could have had a knife, could have beaten her up in the past -- maybe she just had enuff.

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Posted

 

A woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a "warning shot"

 

She would have better off just to have killed him. She would only get 5 years for that, with time off for good behavior. :D

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Posted

^ If she had had a deep hole prepared, she wouldn't have went to trial. :laugh:

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Posted

if you had a gun in your hands and enough time to fire a warning shot then how is your life in danger?

Because if a knife/club/etc. wielding perp is within a few meters they have the tactical advantage, this because of the reaction time delay in aiming & firing the gun at an attacker. This is why cops fire when a knife etc. attacker is still 20-25 feet away.

Also, in most all states warning shots are illegal, or strongly discouraged, because of the danger they present at great distance from the incident. The cops & instructors teach to shoot to kill or don't shoot.

There's a standard tactical drill to establish the distance at which a handgun carrier should fire before they lose the tactical advantage, the Teuller Drill, and it's used by cops and civilian carriers alike.

http://www.theppsc.org/Staff_Views/Tueller/How.Close.htm

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Posted

If I remember correctly, she was in an argument, left because she "felt threatened" grabbed her gun from the car, came back inside and fired off the shots. That's why it was unlawful discharge.

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Posted

So you get 20 years for firing a warning shot and you walk free if you kill someone. Murrica!

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Posted

So you get 20 years for firing a warning shot and you walk free if you kill someone. Murrica!

Read my post.

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Posted

Firing a warning shot into the air gets you 20 years in prison o_O. I mean, I could see jail but 20 years? When no one was hurt? Seems pretty steep. I'd except that if you were actually trying to hurt/kill someone that the minimum time would be 20 years.

 

What comes up, must come down. Who knows, maybe that round killed some innocent person walking. But yes it's very steep.

 

Guns are not made for warning shots, if you fire a warning shot, you might was well use it to kill. Didn't the Vice President say to fire a warning shot in the air?

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Posted

What comes up, must come down. Who knows, maybe that round killed some innocent person walking. But yes it's very steep.

 

Guns are not made for warning shots, if you fire a warning shot, you might was well use it to kill. Didn't the Vice President say to fire a warning shot in the air?

I don't believe in warning shots, I believe if you're gonna pull that trigger, then do so with the intent to kill.  However, in this case, the likelihood of it actually hitting somebody is pretty slim.  Bullets generally start to flatten out and break apart as soon as they hit something, not to mention how much velocity they lose every time they hit something, no matter how soft, and depending on the caliber, it might not have even left the roof, especially if it hit a stud or something.

 

I personally feel like this case was a bunch of bullcrap.  She shouldn't have gotten jail-time for it, but it happened to a black woman in the aftermath of Newtown, so everybody is wanting to pass "feel good" legislation, and put people in jail over stupid stuff so they can feel like they did something, or like they made an example out of some hardened criminal.

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Posted

um.. does anyone who is against this woman read the husband was abusive? the first sentence in the OP. if he is abusive, then yes she has a belief to feeling under the duress of fear.

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Posted

What comes up, must come down. Who knows, maybe that round killed some innocent person walking. But yes it's very steep.

Firing straight up the air a falling 9mm bullet would hit a terminal (maximum) velocity of 100-150 mph on the way down, its speed limited by air resistance. Fired at an angle it could travel a mile or two and be going much faster.

Guns are not made for warning shots, if you fire a warning shot, you might was well use it to kill. Didn't the our extremely stupid, firearms safety ignorant Vice President say to fire a warning shot in the air?

Fixed, and yes. I wanted to dump ice water on the idiot as soon as he said it. Dumbass.
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Posted

Read my post.

I did. And that justifies 20 years, how? He was abusive, she should have just shot him dead.

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Posted

Firing straight up the air a falling 9mm bullet would hit a terminal (maximum) velocity of 100-150 mph on the way down, its speed limited by air resistance. Fired at an angle it could travel a mile or two and be going much faster.

Fixed, and yes. I wanted to dump ice water on the idiot as soon as he said it. Dumbass.

 

Yeah I know, still wouldn't a 150mph round falling kill someone?

 

I'm not agreeing with what the judge said. I just get tired of this whole gun talk. People, if you don't like guns, don't buy one. If you don't want to be around someone who might have a gun, move out of the US.

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Posted

if you had a gun in your hands and enough time to fire a warning shot then how is your life in danger?

Have you ever heard of escalation of force? We had it in the military, and the cops have it too.

 

Verbal warning, physical attempt to submit, non-lethal weapon (pepper spray, taser, etc), then lethal (shoot to kill).

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Posted

Yeah I know, still wouldn't a 150mph round falling kill someone?

 

I'm not agreeing with what the judge said. I just get tired of this whole gun talk. People, if you don't like guns, don't buy one. If you don't want to be around someone who might have a gun, move out of the US.

 

Absolutely. 

 

A somewhat relevant page on it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celebratory_gunfire#Falling-bullet_injuries

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