Marissa Alexander Remains on Bail, Under Tightened Conditions
Marissa Alexander will remain free on bail, ruled Circuit Judge James Daniel, albeit under tightens rules of release to account for the fact that “mistakes were made”.
The State, in the form of Andrea Corey’s State Prosecutors office, had filed a motion this past Monday to have Alexander’s bail revoked. They argued that she had terminated the home detention conditions of her bail by frequently leaving her home to run errands. Alexander, in turn, argued that she had sought and received permission for each of these trips from the Sheriff’s Office CPC counselor assigned to monitor her compliance with the terms of release. (For more detail, see: To Revoke, or Not To Revoke: Marissa Alexander Bail Hearing Tomorrow.)
Certainly pivotal to Judge Daniel’s decision was the testimony of April Wilson the CPC counselor assigned to monitor Alexander’s release. The testified that she did, in fact, approve each of Alexander’s trips, and did so in the belief that she was following the court’s order specifying the terms of release.
Alexander’s defense counsel argued, successfully, that Alexander reasonably relied on the permission of the CPC counselor in believing she remained in compliance with her bond.
Next Steps, Anticipated Outcome
Alexander awaits re-trial on on March 31 on three counts of aggravated assault in the firing of a gun at her then-husband Rico Gray and his two minor children.
Her first conviction was appropriately overturned when the trial judge incorrectly instructed the jury on the law of self-defense. Prior to the first trial Alexander had been offered, but rejected, a 3-year plea agreement, perhaps in part because she had just had a child. At the conclusion of the trial the jury returned a guilty verdict on all three counts of aggravated assault after deliberating for only 12 minutes. Under Florida’s “10-20-Life” law (FS 775.087), the firing of a gun in the commission of an aggravated assault results in a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years, which is what Alexander received.
Many, including myself, had suspected given the political pressure sympathetic to Alexander that the State would re-offer her the original 3-year plea agreement, much of which could simply be dispensed with as time-served.
Given the ferocity with which the State thought to revoke Alexander’s bail, however, a re-offering of the earlier plea agreement now appears unlikely.
Based upon the facts in evidence, it seems unlikely that a re-trial using correct self-defense instructions will arrive at a different verdict than did the first trial, and of course Alexander will once again receive the mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years if convicted a second time.
Keep your eyes right here at Legal Insurrection for breaking news on the continuing travails of Marissa Alexander.
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.
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What are the tightened rules?
It certainly seems reasonable to assume a counselor appointed by the court to oversee the terms of one’s release has been delegated power to speak for the court on matters concerning the enforcement of the release. It seems unreasonable to assume that the counselor’s job is to run the errands.
The State’s argument was that the CPC counselor’s role is to merely monitor Alexander’s compliance with the constraints established by the District Court, not to exercise any authority whatever in “permitting” exceptions to the Court’s conditions of release.
Although the judge declined to revoke bail entirely, he must have had at least some sympathy for the State’s position, as he acknowledged that “mistakes were made” and he stated he intends to tighten Alexander’s conditions of release. (No news yet on what those “tightened restrictions” will look like.)
The State’s argument is not unreasonable on it’s face. Of course, you’d think such an issue would have been run into and dealt many decades ago–it’s not like Alexander is the first defendant to ever be monitored by the CPC while on bail.
How long has ankle monitoring been around?
Before that I think most people released under supervised veil were “low risk”.
Even in the early days of monitoring, I suspect that most people were so happy to get any kind of release they went out of their way to avoid violating the conditions. Plus “the system” in early days probably chose people who were less likely to violate the conditions.
Add to that the conditions of a prisoner released on a retrial of a conviction, and that she had here bail revoked during the previous trial. and I am sure that the conditions are a bit fresher then you would think.
“…the CPC counselor’s role is to merely monitor Alexander’s compliance with the constraints established by the District Court, not to exercise any authority whatever in “permitting” exceptions to the Court’s conditions of release…”
If this were true, then the CPC counselor would have to KNOW that his/her role was strictly for monitoring, and would *not* have approved the trips MA made. Obviously, since the CPC counselor did approve the trips, the counselor thought he/she had the authority.
Therefore either the state screwed up and told the CPC counselor incorrect information, or the CPC couselor screwed up and gave out incorrect permissions, or the communication between the state and the counselor was vague enough the counselor thought he/she had permission to approve the trips.
So how are they trying to pin this on Marissa?
After watching this same prosecutor’s office conceal exculpatory discovery evidence in the Zimmerman trial, and tell outright lies in open court, I don’t put anything beyond them.
End of the day, it won’t matter. Her trial is in late March. The evidence hasn’t changed. She’s got no credible deadly-force self-defense claim. Re-conviction seems highly likely.
Clearly, if the State is going to thrash over stuff like running errands with “only” the permission of the CPC, they’re certainly not going to re-offer a 3-year plea deal.
So, she’s staring down both barrels of another 20-year sentence.
“So how are they trying to pin this on Marissa?”
Hardly matters. If the court determines that the state has no mechanism available to ensure adequate supervision of Alexander’s bail, then it can’t grant bail, and she goes back to lockup. So, if the Sheriff’s office (1) appoints someone who can’t or won’t follow the bail conditions set by the judge, and (2) can’t or won’t appoint someone more reliable, that means that no mechanism is available for adequate supervision, and bail is impractical.
It’s not sentence enhancement, or a matter of whether Alexander deserves it as punishment. It’s about practical limitations of the capabilities of law enforcement.
Setting stringent bail conditions in this case would seem to be a serious matter. The defendant fired a gun at a man and his children (if we dispense with the “warning shot” claim, which doesn’t pass the smell test). And is a person with a history of ignoring legal orders, implying that unsupervised bail would be useless.
Did the prosecutors not talk to the counselor before this hearing? If they did, why were they in court? If not, why not? Surely they knew what the counselor’s response would be before wasting the court’s time. They do this because they have unlimited resources. It’s why so many people end up in prison. They are simply outspent.
A shot across Alexander’s bow, letting her know they are willing to, once again, go to the mat? If so, it implies they are willing to cut a deal, but one that will cause her some pain. Trouble is, Alexander likely thinks she won this round and can win the main event.
Os she knows she will be recnvicted and plans to make the most of her time out. Damn the rules.
These events are consistent with the idea that the sheriff’s office is not enforcing the terms of bail that the judge had in mind when he set them. So, who’s going to cave, the judge or the sheriff? I expect that the judge wants the terms he previously set to be enforced. So, no need to tighten up the terms, it’s the supervision which needs to be improved.
Straightening out the sheriff’s office seems a legitimate use of court time. File it under “better late than never”.