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."
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .