Marissa Alexander, the African-American Florida woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for discharging a gun in self-defense, will get a new trial. Alexander fired her gun into the ceiling because she was afraid her abusive husband, Rico Gray, would kill her. Alexander claimed protection under the "Stand Your Ground" law, the same law relied upon to acquit George Zimmerman of the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Gray has a history of abusive behavior with Alexander and other women. At the time of the incident in August 2010, Alexander had a restraining order against him, and had been previously hospitalized due to injuries sustained from his abuse. On the day she fired the warning shot into the ceiling, Alexander had gone to her old home to retrieve some personal items when Gray began to threaten her. Alexander locked herself in the bathroom for safety, but Gray broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her before she was able to break away and run to the garage. When she could not open her garage door, Alexander grabbed her gun, for which she had a concealed carry permit. When Gray saw the gun, he told her he would kill her, so she fired a shot in the air to warn him to stay away. She thought it was "the lesser of two evils."
The jury took only 12 minutes to convict Alexander, a mother of three, of three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon--even though nobody was hurt and she did not aim her gun directly at her husband.
To parallel Alexander's case with the Zimmerman trial produces disturbing questions about race, gender, and the justice system in Florida and across this nation. "The Florida criminal justice system has sent two clear messages today," said Representative Corrine Brown after Alexander's sentencing. "One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the 'Stand Your Ground Law' will not apply to them. The second message is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently."
10/31/2014 Federal Judge Exempts Another Catholic University from Birth Control Coverage - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Ave Maria University, a Catholic university in Florida, does not have to comply with federal rules meant to ensure that covered employees can exercise their right to obtain birth control at no cost.
The Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives - such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs - without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. . . .
10/31/2014 Women of Color in Tennessee Are United in Opposition to Amendment 1 - Just days before the general election in Tennessee, a coalition of community leaders, clergy, and advocates led a press conference encouraging women of color to vote no on Amendment 1, a dangerous and far-reaching measure on the state's ballot.
SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
"We assemble today to impress upon black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote," said SisterReacher Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott at the event.
SisterReach has been educating voters about the particularly dangerous impact of Amendment 1 on women of color. . . .
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .