Duval County, Florida Judge James Daniel heard several hours of arguments from Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei and defense attorney Faith Gay, but it will be at least a month before he will rule in the high-profile case. The controversial case of Marissa Alexander involves all new attorneys on both sides as well as a new judge. Alexander is being represented pro bono. The defense is attempting to get the judge to allow Marissa Alexander to have a Stand Your Ground hearing. Faith Gay argued that Gray had a history of battering women, calling police and pretending to be the victim, and getting others to lie for him. She stated that was what he did in this case, getting his children to lie for him. Gay also spoke about a new “warning shot” bill, which is awaiting action by Florida’s Governor Rick Scott and new evidence, which includes Alexander’s stepson recanting his testimony. Gay argued that the first Stand Your Ground hearing used the wrong standard and that Gray’s abusive history was not taken into account. The Stand Your Ground law was passed in Florida in 2005. The defense argued that in its early years, including when the first immunity hearing was held in 2011, the law was not well understood.
Mantei countered that new laws cannot be retroactively applied to cases, but the judge responded that the law was specifically passed with this case in mind. Mantei also argued that Gay’s evidence was not “new enough” for a new hearing, but should be argued at the new trial instead. Mantei told the judge that Gray’s children, the only eyewitnesses, had conflicting testimony before the first trial. He argued that the 1st District Court of Appeals ruled that the previous judge, Elizabeth Senterfitt, was correct to deny Alexander immunity, but the judge retorted that the same ruling also threw out her conviction on aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.
The judge stated at the hearing that he wasn’t sure how or if the new bill, which he said cleared up confusion about Stand Your Ground will affect the case.
Prosecutors contend that Alexander, 33, intended to shoot her estranged husband while his children were present. Alexander maintains that she only fired a warning shot out of fear of her abusive husband, Rico Gray, and that no one was injured. Alexander is currently on home detention awaiting her retrial.
Judge Daniel called the case a “big legal knot” and said that it did not appear as though Alexander deserved a new hearing simply because the state updated its law. The next hearing for the case is set for June 10th. The judge was concerned that multiple Stand Your Ground hearings for one case would set a bad precedent, “We’re on new terrain here. No one has ever considered whether we can have two Stand Your Ground hearings.” Alexander’s attorneys responded that the case was “unique” and that not every case would have an overturned verdict and then a new law involved.
During the hearing, the judge denied a defense motion to include domestic violence group therapy sessions involving Marissa Alexander and her husband Rico Gray, calling them privileged. The defense unsuccessfully argued that battering therapy was only privileged if both sides invoked it and that since it was group therapy, you couldn’t expect privacy. The prosecution objected saying that both people deserve privacy and that the privilege has been honored repeatedly even in contentious divorces.
Both sides also discussed pretrial publicity and keeping it from affecting the trial, including how detailed to make the jury questionnaire. The judge did allow the defense to investigate statements Gray made at a battered shelter, but did not allow them access to his financial records.
Defense motions involving a search of Alexander’s house and the constitutionality of Florida’s 10-20-Life sentencing structure (mandatory minimums) will be argued on June 10th.