TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida woman serving 20 years in prison for firing a shot at her estranged husband during an argument will get a new trial, though she will not be able to invoke a "stand your ground" defense, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
The case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville mother of three, has been used by critics of Florida's "stand your ground" law and mandatory minimum sentences to argue that the state's justice system is skewed against defendants who are black.
The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that Alexander deserves a new trial because the trial judge handling her case did not properly instruct the jury regarding what is needed to prove self-defense.
The ruling, written by Judge Robert Benton, said the instructions constituted a "fundamental error" and required Alexander to prove self-defense "beyond a reasonable doubt."
But the court also made it clear in its ruling that the judge was right to block Alexander from using the state's "stand your ground" law as a way to defend her actions. That law generally removes people's duty to retreat in the face of possible danger and allows them to use of deadly force if they believe their lives are in danger.