Much of the coverage of the Marissa Alexander case (previously touched on Legal Insurrection here and here) laments that Ms. Alexander was sentenced to a statutory mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison for having “merely” fired a “warning shot”.  

The actual evidence of the case shows that this claim has about the same degree of veracity as does that of claims that Trayvon Martin was shot merely for the crime of wearing a hoodie and possessing Skittles. Meaning, none.


The claim of the “warning shot” is, of course, part of the misinformation narrative intended to minimize the seriousness of Alexander’s conduct deadly-force aggression towards an estranged husband (who, at worst, had in the past threatened her with merely non-deadly force) as well as towards her own two step-children.

In fact, the evidence as recounted by the trial court and uncontested by the defense shows that the bullet “nearly [narrowly] missed [her husband’s] head” while he stood with his hands in the air, presenting no imminent threat whatever to the lethally armed Alexander.

The fired round passed through the kitchen wall immediately behind the husband and step-children (not, it should be noted, the kitchen ceiling), penetrated into the living room, and eventually lodged in the living room ceiling.

The husband and step-children fled and promptly called police–conduct consistent with a consciousness of innocence.  Alexander, having fired the shot past her husband’s head, never called the police–conduct consistent with a consciousness of guilt.

Some weeks later Alexander was charged with having committed a domestic assault upon her husband (despite Alexander having been issued a restraining order by the court)–a specific act that suggests a violent character from which a fact finder could infer that it was Alexander who was more likely the aggressor in the earlier shooting incident.

In short, the evidence supports a compelling narrative that Alexander fired a deadly bullet at her husband and step-children while in a state of malice induced by their just concluded verbal argument–a classic example of aggravated assault (three counts).

Given this evidence it is little wonder that the jury took a mere 12 minutes of deliberations to return a verdict of guilty.

The entirety of the court’s findings in its order denying Alexander’s motion for immunity can be read below:

Marrissa Alexander – Order Denying Immunity – August 17 2011

–Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer in his third decade of practice, an attorney member of the Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network, and a Guest Instructor on the Law of Self Defense at the Sig Sauer Academy. He is the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition”.

Andrew conducts Law of Self Defense Seminars all around the country, and he has also launched a series of LOSD State-Specific Supplements that dive deep into every relevant statute, jury instruction, and court case that defines the law of self-defense in a particular state.  NOTE: Seats still available for Law of Self Defense Seminars in Pensacola Florida, Oct. 5 and Columbia, South Carolina, October 19.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter on @LawSelfDefense and using #LOSD2, on Facebook, and at his blog, The Law of Self Defense.


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