Feminism vs Facts: Marissa Alexander, Angela Corey, & Melissa Harris-Perry

The end of 2013 is fast approaching and it’s that list-making time of year. Weighing in at number twenty three in iconic feminist moments was the release of an African-American woman named Marissa Alexander from jail while awaiting a retrial for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Given that women get lesser sentences for actually killing their target, this case is curious.

So, who is this feminist poster girl?

Feminists will tell you that Marissa is a battered woman “condemned” to 20 years in prison merely for firing a warning shot into the ceiling to prevent her abusive husband from beating her. They have campaigned relentlessly for her release. Radicalwomen.com joined the “Free Marissa Now” campaign pleading with us to “stop the legal lynching by Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws of an African American domestic violence survivor.” The Feminist Wire begged readers to sign a petition with the slogan “Justice for Marissa! Set her Free!” And the Free Marissa Now website boasts a number of feminist organizations that are supporting and funding her legal defence.

The feminist version of the story goes like this: Marissa found herself trapped in her home with a violent husband, who had a history of abuse, and against whom she had a restraining order. She had given birth just nine days before the altercation. When she escaped from the house and arrived at her car, she realized she had forgotten her keys. She then grabbed a gun (for which she had a permit) from the car and fired a warning shot at her estranged husband when he threatened to kill her and made a movement in her direction.

Marissa invoked Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” defence. She was denied that defence and found guilty by a jury in just over twelve minutes. This resulted in the mandatory minimum 20 year sentencing for gun crimes in that state.

Sounds like a travesty.

It also sounds like a hay wagon full of horse shit.

As it turns out, the feminists’ story lacks the following details: Marissa was not assaulted in her own home. Days after giving birth, she left her newborn in the hospital and drove to her estranged husband’s house. At the time, there were mutual restraining orders in place. Her husband was not home so Marissa parked her car in his garage and waited for his return. She eagerly showed him photos of her newborn on her cell phone and an argument arose when he noticed text messages between her and her ex-husband on the phone.

Marissa stormed out of the house and into the garage, where she grabbed a gun from her car and went back inside. Marissa claimed that the garage door was broken, forcing her to return after she had successfully left. Police found no evidence that the garage door was broken. She later claimed that she had left her keys behind.

The supposed “warning” shot was fired at head level and only ended up in the roof after ricocheting out of the other side of a wall. There were two children in the room standing next to her husband when Marissa fired the gun at his head.

Three months after being released on bail Marissa violated the no contact order, went back to her husband’s house and gave him a black eye. When police contacted her, Marissa claimed that she was never there but later confessed.

The “Stand Your Ground” defence places the burden of proof onto the accused to show that their life was in danger. By attempting to use that defence Marissa made her case harder to win. She also refused a plea bargain that would have only sentenced her to three years in jail. Marissa chose to take her chances in court despite enough evidence stacked against her – so much that a jury of her peers only needed twelve minutes to reach a guilty verdict.

Stand Your Ground did not apply to Marissa’s case since she was able to leave the house safely and not only returned but, upon her return, escalated a non-deadly altercation into a deadly confrontation by bringing a gun into the conflict. There was no evidence of bruising or violence to Marissa’s body when police arrested her. The 911 call was placed by her husband who fled the house with his two children and called police to have them remove Marissa from his home.

The prosecutor in the case, Angela Corey, is known for her staunch victim’s advocate stance. Corey has confronted the misrepresentation of Marissa Alexander’s case in the media numerous times explaining that she has a duty to the main victims in this crime: two young children. But no one wants to hear what Angela Corey has to say because it doesn’t make for a good feminist campaign.

Unsurprisingly, when given the choice, feminists are more worried about a black woman than they are about two black children. Of course part of their battle cry is that Marissa won’t be with her own children while incarcerated, and they were forced to choose between the custodial children of a woman and the custodial children of a man. It’s easy to see the complicated scales of equality feminism at work here.

Not being the ones to let facts get in the way of a good campaign, feminists have compared Marissa Alexander’s Stand Your Ground case to that of George Zimmerman and the Trayvon Martin shooting. Their bone of contention is that a white man got away with murdering a black kid under Stand Your Ground, but a black woman was unsuccessful with that same defence even though she didn’t kill anyone.

First of all, George Zimmerman is Hispanic. Secondly, Zimmerman did not use the Stand Your Ground defence in his trial. His lawyers wisely advised Zimmerman that he stood a better chance of acquittal if he kept the burden of proof on the state. Third, they were both shooting at black people.

To help us understand the case better, Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC, wrote an open letter to prosecutor Angela Corey. It starts like this:

Dear Angela Corey,

It’s me, Melissa.

Angela, there are few times in life that we get second chances to right our wrongs. Well Angela, this is yours.

You have been called a fierce victim’s advocate, so it is way past time that you start acting like it.

Dear Melissa Harris-Perry,

It’s me, Diana.

Melissa, there are few times in life that we get second chances to realize that we acted like complete cunts. Well, Melissa, this is yours.

You have been called an educated woman and it’s way past time that you start acting like it.

As the host of a television show, which has much greater access to the facts of the case than I do, I’m looking forward the explanation of how it only took me two minutes with Google to find out the details of the case that seem to have eluded you.

Since, Melissa, you obviously care about abuse victims, I suggest you remember that two young children watched a psychopathic woman aim and fire a gun at their father’s head. This woman, who you are so passionately defending, has shown herself to be incapable of staying away from the home of a man who allegedly beats her even when restraining orders are in place and her bail conditions stipulated “no contact.”

Since you are trying to educate us about domestic violence, Melissa, I am left wondering why you left out the part explaining how Marissa kept finding herself driving to her abuser’s house. Usually battered wives are “stuck” there because they live with their spouse and the “domestic” part of the violence references their own home, creating the sticky part of “stuck”.

Finally, I am greatly intrigued by your response to the detail that Marissa’s “warning shot” hit the wall at adult head level. You explained with exasperation that “Marissa is three inches shorter than [her husband].” Being rather tall, I had no idea that the ceiling is located in a different place for short people.

Thank you, Melissa, for this enlightening example of how a feminist brain functions.


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