Marissa Alexander Accepted a Plea Deal, What’s Next for the Movement?

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Image created by Jennifer Kernica of Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander.

On Monday November 24th, Marissa accepted a plea deal with the State of Florida, to serve 3 years in prison for 3 counts of aggravated assault.  Because the 1030 days she had already spent in prison could be applied to this sentence, she was taken into custody in November 2014 to serve the remaining 65 days.  The deal also carries two years of probation while serving house detention and wearing a monitor.

The plea offer came shortly after the judge agreed to allow testimony from several of Rico Gray’s exes, who each shared evidence that he was a serial abuser.  It is believed that this exposure of his pattern of abuse is what prompted the state to offer Marissa a plea deal that would drastically shorten her sentence.

At Marissa’s upcoming hearing on January 27th, there is a possibility that she will be sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison because the second count of aggravated assault remains “open.”  However, all parties have been instructed not to comment on the case until that hearing, so information on this has been scarce.

For the Birds was able to raise over $400 for Marissa’s legal expenses, in preparation for her expected trial.  However, Marissa will still need financial support in the years to come, as she has been prevented from working to support her 3 children.  We will continue to sell t-shirts as long as we have stock, and the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Now webstore remains open.

For the Birds stands firmly with other Marissa organizers to unequivocally support Marissa for making the decision she felt she needed to make to protect her life and her family from a looming 60 year jail sentence.  However, the sickness of the justice system is clear when survivors of domestic violence are forced to plead “guilty” to actions performed in self defense.

Alisa Bierria of the Free Marissa Now mobilization campaign said:  “The plea deal is a relief in some ways, but this is far from a victory. The deal will help Marissa and her family avoid yet another very expensive and emotionally exhausting trial that could have led to the devastating ruling of spending the rest of her life in prison….we have always believed that forcing Marissa to serve even one day in prison represents a profound and systemic attack on black women’s right to exist and all women’s right to self-defense.

We will not stop organizing until Marissa Alexander is free!” said Aleta Alston Toure, a Free Marissa Now lead organizer based in Jacksonville.  “During the next 65 days, we must continue to use the attention we’ve brought to Marissa’s case to highlight the broader ongoing crisis of mass incarceration, police violence, and prosecutorial abuse.  There are thousands of Marissa Alexanders still behind bars, still facing devastating prison sentences, and still being threatened in their own homes.  We must stay the course, spread the word, and change the system until all of our sisters are free.

As we join the national outcry against police and legal systems functioning under a clear “logic of anti-blackness”, we must acknowledge that the community building essential to the creation of a more just future have been going on for decades.  Consider donating to groups such as INCITE! Women Against Violence, Critical Resistance, or The Audre Lorde Project.  Get educated on the historical analysis of the relationship between the prison industrial complex and women of color (selected titles below).  If you are white, step up and have those tough conversations with your families, your friends, so that people of color don’t always have to be the teachers.  For the Birds will continue to engage in feminist struggles against racial injustice, in its many pervasive forms.

Reading List:

Locked Down, Locked Out by Maya Schenwar

Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women by Vikki Law

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

The Color of Violence: the INCITE! Anthology by the INCITE Women of Color Against Violence Collective