A Florida mom sentenced to a 20-year prison term for firing a warning shot in what she said was self-defense will get a new trial, on grounds that the jury was not properly instructed on how to apply the state’s “stand your ground” law, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The case of Marissa Alexander, who is black, has raised concerns about the extent to which “stand your ground” laws allow biases to creep into jury decisions. Alexander was found guilty in May 2012 of discharging a deadly weapon near her estranged husband and newborn baby. She said she had long been abused by her husband and had fired the shot as a warning for him not to get any closer to her during what was becoming a physical altercation. He was not injured.
Under Florida law, people have no duty to retreat from danger before fighting back, even with deadly force. A judge ruled the stand-your-ground law didn't apply in Alexander's case. Critics have cited Alexander as an example of unfair application of a stand-your-ground self-defense law; they point to the acquittal of George Zimmerman to buttress their charge. The half-white, half-Hispanic neighborhood watch captain was found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, after following the unarmed youth onto a dark neighborhood path. Zimmerman, too, claimed self-defense.