The victim, in this twisted tale of Florida justice, was Rico Gray, a 245-pound Jacksonville truck driver with a proclivity for domestic violence.
The criminal, the woman sentenced to 20 years of hard time on May 11, was his wife, Marissa Alexander, five feet, two inches tall and slight enough, as Gray mentioned in his pre-trial deposition, that on two occasions he tossed her from their house without much physical exertion. Shes a little person so it doesnt take much for me to pick her up and tote her out my front door . . . You know, I pretty much picked her up and throwed her out.
In the months before the incident that sent Marissa to prison, in addition to bodily heaving her out the door, Gray had beaten her, head-butted her in the face while she was pregnant, sent her to the hospital. One of his three arrests on domestic violence charges had been for an attack on Alexander that led to a conviction and probation. On Sept. 30, 2009, a Duval County circuit judge issued an injunction against Gray, ordering him to keep away from Alexander. (In his deposition, Gray said he was previously arrested for striking two other women in the face who, he explained, wouldnt shut up.)
But on August 10, 2010, as Gray approached her in a rage, Alexander (a software firm employee with an MBA and no previous criminal record) fired a pistol into the air. A jury convicted her of aggravated assault with a firearm and, under Floridas draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the presiding judge was left with no discretion. So she got 20 years. Her thug husband got custody of their baby son.
Womens groups, anti-domestic violence activists, the Jacksonville NAACP, U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown and advocates for sentencing reform have all issued outraged statements condemning the verdict and the sentence. (A Free Marissa demonstration planned for Tuesday in Jacksonville was postponed after the city was slammed by Tropical Storm Beryl.)
But it was the words of Gray himself, in his Nov. 22, 2010, deposition, that best illustrated the perversity of his wifes prosecution and conviction and unyielding prison sentence.
Sitting in the State Attorneys Office, Gray described how he had erupted in anger when he discovered text messages on his wifes phone to another man. (Alexander had moved out, but had come home briefly that day to retrieve her clothes.) I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and . . . I told her, you know, I used to always tell her that, if I cant have you, nobody going to have you. It was not the first time of ever saying it to her.
Gray said he had intimated that he had unsavory friends who would carry out vengeful acts on his behalf. I aint going to lie. I been on the streets before I started driving trucks, you know, so I know a lot of people and she knows I know a lot of people.
As they argued, he recounted, Marissa retreated into the bathroom. I dont recall breaking the door open, but I know I beat on it hard enough where it could have been broken open. Probably had some dents.
Once he managed to get inside, he said he pushed her into the door with enough violence to further damage the door.
Did you put your hands around her neck? Not that particular day. No.