Though Mobley claimed he was acting in self-defense, surveillance video showed one victim had his hands up when he was killed and the other did not seem to be reaching for a weapon. Neither man was armed.
After investigating for months, prosecutors charged Mobley with second-degree murder in what they called a key test of the Stand Your Ground law.
Mobley’s arrest was “very important because it sends a clear message,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle said at the time. “The Legislature passed the Stand Your Ground law, but it is not a free-for-all to execute people.”
If the Trayvon Martin case fueled the perception that Stand Your Ground is biased against blacks, the Marissa Alexander case has ignited it.
Alexander, a 31-year-old black Jacksonville woman, told police in 2010 that she had fired a warning shot to get her abusive husband out of the house during an argument in which his two young children were present. No one was hurt, but a judge denied Alexander’s motion for immunity from prosecution.
In March, a jury convicted Alexander on three charges of aggravated assault, which carry a mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison. Her lawyer, Kevin Cobbin, complained that Stand Your Ground was not being used as legislators intended.
“They did not make [the law] for people running around on the streets shooting people,” Cobbin said. “They made it for women in their homes trying to defend themselves against abusive, mean men.”
A closer look at Alexander’s case reveals a more-complex story. After arguing with Rico Gray, her husband, Alexander went to the garage, got a gun from her car and returned to the house. Because of that, the judge who denied immunity concluded she had not been in “genuine fear” for her life.
And contrary to Alexander’s claim of firing a shot into the ceiling, a bullet hole was found in the living room wall at about the height of an adult’s head, according to the Duval County prosecutor’s office.
The case has become a cause celebre, with the NAACP and a black member of Congress jumping to Alexander’s support.
“I have spoken to countless lawyers and they have yet to discover any cases in Florida where an African American was able to successfully use the Stand Your Ground law defense in a hearing,” Rep. Corinne Brown, D-Jacksonville, claimed at Alexander’s sentencing May 11.
Brown called for a study “into racial disparities in the application of this law.”
But the Times found that blacks and whites have had nearly the same success rate when arguing Stand Your Ground in hearings before a judge.
In four domestic dispute cases similar to Alexander’s, judges granted immunity to a black woman and a white woman. Two other white women lost their bids for immunity and got lengthy prison sentences.
Duval State Attorney Angela Corey noted that both judge and jury had rejected Alexander’s Stand Your Ground defense.
“None of the physical evidence corroborates her story,” Corey told reporters. “There was the 911 call . . . and you can clearly hear the distress in Rico Gray’s voice. They had a verbal argument [in which] he said ‘I’m outta here,’ and she said, ‘I’ve got something for you.’ ”