Angela Corey’s Overzealous Prosecution of Marissa Alexander

The Florida state attorney’s prosecution of a battered woman who was trying to defend herself is grossly unjust, writes Kirsten Powers.

Ricardo Arduengo/AP

Angela Corey is angry. The Florida state attorney lashed out Tuesday at supporters of Marissa Alexander, who has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for defending herself against her violent and abusive husband. Corey is the one who put her away.

“I think social media is going to be the destruction of this country,” Corey complained to The Washington Post of the online agitation to free the 32-year-old African-American mother of three.

No, it’s not Alexander’s abusive husband Rico Gray—who said in his deposition, “I got five baby mammas, and I [hit] every last one of them except for one”—that makes Corey see red. What really fries her bacon is the idea that anyone questions her overzealous prosecution of a battered woman acting in self-defense.

Like most domestic-abuse cases, this one is complicated. But the basic facts are these: In July 2010, after Rico Gray saw texts on his wife’s phone, he confronted her in a rage and threatened her. Alexander used her gun to fire a warning shot into the ceiling to scare off her husband. Nobody was hit, injured, or killed.

Alexander, who had no criminal record, was arrested. Contrast this with another Florida resident, George Zimmerman (also prosecuted by Corey), who had a record including an arrest for battery of a police officer and a restraining order for domestic abuse. He also had killed an unarmed teenager. Yet he wasn’t arrested until there was a national outcry and was later acquitted. Alexander—who did not kill or injure anyone—is in jail for 20 years.

Alexander’s lawyer tried to have the case thrown out based on the state’s “stand your ground” law, but was denied. Her lawyer told me, “When a woman or minority is claiming they are defending themselves, they don’t get the benefit of the doubt.” Rita Smith, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence echoed this sentiment saying, “Most battered women who kill in self-defense end up in prison. There is a well-documented bias against women [in these cases].”

Angela Corey’s prosecution was based in part on the premise that, as she told the Huffington Post, “[Alexander] was not in fear” at the time she fired the gun. This is a ludicrous thing to say. It’s worth reviewing in detail exactly what Gray said in his 2010 deposition to fully appreciate how disturbing Corey’s claim is.

Gray admitted in his deposition there had been “about four or five” incidents of domestic violence with Alexander prior to the shooting incident, including when he “pushed her back and she fell in the bathtub and she hit her head.” He said that she went to the hospital and he went to jail for that.

In describing his abuse of another woman he said, “She just wouldn’t shut up.” So he hit her in the mouth. Asked about another woman he had a relationship with, Gray said, “She got hit in the mouth, same thing.”

As for the day of the shooting incident, he says when he saw the texts on Alexander’s phone he pushed his way into the bathroom to confront her. He said in the deposition: “I was mad, you know. I said, what the f—- is this, and you know, I told her that ... if I can’t have you nobody going to have you … She ain’t shit.”

Gray said that when she tried to leave the bathroom, “I met her where the sink was, and she wanted to get by me and I wouldn’t let her by and I was backing up slow but I was using my body to pretty much contain her in that one area where I want her to be at. [S]he got the bathroom door closed and she locked it, so I were beating on it. [I] was there waiting for her to come out of the bathroom.”

“I was in a rage. I was in a rage, so I was saying a lot of things.” He said, “I beat on the door hard enough where it could have been broken open. [P]robably has some dents.” And: “I was mad, you know … I called her a whore and a bitch.”

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“She was trying to get by and I was sitting there trying to make her talk to me. [T]he more she didn’t want to talk about it, the more I was not letting her by.” After she got out of the bathroom, “I was telling her, she ain’t going nowhere, she going to sit right here. [S]he was trying to get by … and I was telling her she not going nowhere.”

He was asked, “Did you ever tell her you knew people that would do your dirt?” Gray said, “Yeah. [I] ain’t going to lie. I been in the streets … I know a lot of people …” Asked if the purpose of “saying something like that was to let her know if she didn’t do what you wanted her to do that you could have hurt her or something?,” he answered, “That’s correct.”

He described her going to the garage, “but I knew that she couldn’t leave out the garage because the garage door was locked …” He reiterated, “I knew she couldn’t get out of the garage.”

“She came back through the doors and she had a gun [from her car]. And she said, ‘You need to leave.’ I told her, I ain’t leaving until you talk to me … and I started walking towards her and she shot in the air.”

Remember, Corey claims that Alexander was not scared at this point. Really. She also claims that Rico Gray lied in this deposition to protect Alexander. Because misogynist monsters always implicate themselves in crimes to protect women.

It’s amazing that Rico Gray can admit in excruciating detail in a deposition to violent attacks on multiple women and be a free man, but when one of those women tries to defend herself, that’s just a bridge too far for Angela Corey.

If there is any justice, the governor of Florida will pardon Alexander—as many online petitions are urging him to do—and make clear that it’s the abusers who are the menace to society, not the abused.