Marissa Alexander is a survivor of domestic violence who, in 2012, was sentenced to a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence for firing a single warning shot into the ceiling when her estranged abusive husband attacked her. Just over a year after Marissa was sentenced, George Zimmerman was on trial for the brutal, racist murder of Trayvon Marton and tried to invoke the stand-your-ground defense that Marissa was denied. After a one month trial, he was acquitted on self-defense. This put the workings of a racist criminal legal system on full display, and support for Marissa’s case surged.
Marissa’s supporters helped publicize her case, held protests and events, raised funds for her legal defense, and supported her through her probation. Eventually grassroots organizing and good legal defense led to Marissa’s case being overturned.
But State Attorney Angela Corey decided to retry her case, threatening Marissa with 60 years in prison for defending her life. In November 2014, Marissa accepted a plea deal for time served plus 65 more days in jail and 2 years of probation under house arrest. After serving a total of 5 years, Marissa Alexander was finally released on January 27, 2017.
In 2016, she founded the Marissa Alexander Justice Project to advocate for other criminalized survivors of violence.
In June, Hope Dector from the Barnard Center for Research on Women and I released three collaborative videos with Mariame Kaba, narrated by CeCe McDonald with audio editing by Lewis Wallace, artwork and photographs by Sarah-Jane Rhee, Nicole Harrison, Molly Crabapple, Dignidad Rebelde, and Erin K. Wilson. Each of the three short videos highlight a case of a person criminalized for defending herself from gender violence.
Download the Survived and Punished toolkit for resources on starting a defense campaign:
Visit the Survived and Punished website to learn about ongoing campaigns for freedom: