No 'Stand Your Ground' Hearing for Fla. 'Warning Shot' Defendant

By Brett Snider, Esq. on July 23, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Florida woman who fired a warning shot at her abusive husband will not receive a pretrial "Stand Your Ground" hearing in her assault case, a judge has ruled.

Marissa Alexander, 33, was hoping the judge would take into account Florida's new law extending "Stand Your Ground" to warning shots in granting her a pretrial self-defense hearing. Reuters reports that Alexander, whose original conviction in 2012 was overturned on appeal, had her claim of self-defense rejected during her first trial as well.

With Florida's new law in place, why is Alexander being denied a pretrial "Stand Your Ground" hearing?

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Original Self-Defense Hearing

Alexander had a self-defense hearing for her original trial in this "warning shot" case, but a Florida judge ruled against her claim that she'd acted in self-defense. As The Florida Times-Union reports, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt ruled in 2011 that Alexander acted inconsistently with someone in "genuine fear of his or her life" -- perhaps because she allegedly retreated to her car to retrieve her gun before firing the warning shot.

It seems likely that when Alexander was granted a retrial in her case that she would be eligible to revisit the issue of self-defense.

New Hearing Would Take New Laws Into Account

Alexander's legal team had hoped to delay her request for a new "Stand Your Ground" hearing until after Florida's new law was passed. With Gov. Rick Scott signing a law in late June clarifying that "Stand Your Ground" principles encompassed warning shots, it seemed that Alexander was likely to prevail in a self-defense hearing this time around.

However, Circuit Judge James Daniel had indicated before that he was "reluctant to have a second Stand Your Ground hearing" earlier this year, reports the Times-Union. Judge Daniel claimed it would strike poor precedent and "bring the administration of justice to a grinding halt" to grant a second "Stand Your Ground" hearing -- which is likely why he denied such a hearing for Alexander on Friday.

Self-Defense Evidence Can Still Be Presented

Still, just because Alexander won't get a "Stand Your Ground" hearing doesn't mean she'll be prevented from presenting self-defense evidence to a trial jury. You may recall that George Zimmerman, whose trial on murder charges sparked debate over "Stand Your Ground" laws, chose to forgo a pretrial "Stand Your Ground" hearing and was still acquitted by a jury.

According to Reuters, Alexander's retrial isn't scheduled until December, giving her legal team time to examine Judge Daniel's ruling and prepare a strategy.

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