By Subhash Kateel
If you’ve followed Let’s Talk About It!, you know that we were among the first media outlets to cover the case of Marissa Alexander, a victim of domestic violence who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Florida court after firing a warning shot at an abusive husband (a warning shot that hurt noone). The case caused international outrage. Well, Marissa is back in the news today. This time, however, with good news.
It seems like an appeals court granted her a new trial. Details are coming in. You can be sure that we are going to have a lot to say about this in the coming days. In the mean time, read the decision from the court. Stay tuned.
Segments co-produced by Bruce Wayne Stanley and Muhammed Malik
in tonight as we revisit Egypt with Adel Iskander, Tewfik Cassis and
Mark Levine after what Human Right’s Watch is calling “the
most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian
history” as we ask if it’s spring has turned to winter.
2. Next we will
check in with Phillip Agnew from Dream Defenders about their next steps
after ending their month-long occupation of Florida’s State Capitol.
Find out why NAACP’s Julian Bond exclaimed that they are “stopping a
protest because they started a movement.”
3. Speaking of movements, we will
check in with the folks from Free Marissa Now and the New Jim Crow movement in Jacksonville about what they have planned
in an effort to free Marissa Alexander, who is serving 20
years in prison for firing a warning shot against an abusive spouse.
4. Lastly, we will find out about Miami’s Greynold’s Park and why local
residents are fighting to save it. With attorney Charles Barron, Bill Campbell and Kim Lumpkin of the committee to save Greynold’s Park.
Hosted by Subhash Kateel. Segments co-produced by Bruce Wayne Stanley
By Subhash Kateel
three, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated assault after firing
a gun into a wall that hurt no one in what she claimed was an attempt to defend
herself against an abusive husband.
Since the sentencing last Friday, the prosecutor in the case, Angela
Corey and her star witness/Marissa’s allegedly abusive husband, Rico Gray, have been on a virtual speaking tour telling their sides of the story, sometimes together.
Trayvon Martin case, reached out to several press outlets (including ours) in
the past few weeks, I believe that her and Rico Gray’s statements to the press, this week in particular, have been marked by inaccuracies, distortions of truth and
blatant lies. Here are a few of them.
kill” her husband and his children the day she was arrested.
a different take on the facts than Marissa Alexander to straight out lying about
those facts. In a recent interview she
gave to CBS news, she stated:
“She [Marissa] discharged a gun to kill them, [her
husband and his children] and she has to answer for that.”
either Corey or Rico Gray where they claim that Marissa “aimed and shot” at
Rico Gray and his two young children that were in the house at the time. Disappointing because the accusation that she
“aimed and shot” at someone is probably wrong, but the insinuation that she
tried to kill anyone is a bald faced lie.
To prove it is a lie, you would either have to do hours of research…or
just read the crime Marissa was charged with…out loud…once. Please join me:
“Aggravated Assault…without intent to kill.”
that she was trying to kill anyone. But
what about the claim that she “aimed and shot” at her husband and his
kids? When looking at the pictures from
the crime scene and listening to the 911 tape, which Angela Corey told me would
both prove that Marissa “shot at” someone, you don’t get the sense that either
piece of evidence proves any of that. For one, as
I have said before, Rico Gray tells three different stories on the 911 tape:
:46-“She was shooting at me and my son”
himself] shoot at [emphasis his] me…I’m so pissed off right now.”
she probably wasn’t aiming at my kids…but she might as well be…”
The most revealing section of the 911 tape is at 4:45, where
Rico Gray seems to change his story and correct himself mid-sentence. He first seems to imply that Marissa fired a
gun in front of him (rather than at him), and then quickly restates and almost emphasizes to the 911 dispatcher
that she fired at him. And this was supposed to be one of the strongest pieces
of evidence to prove Marissa’s guilt.
she said would clear up any doubt that Marissa shot at her husband, show a
single bullet hole at least a foot into the wall with an exit hole in an upward
direction (and not “ricocheting” as Corey has claimed). Looking at the picture,
it seems clear that if Marissa was aiming at anyone, they were either behind
the wall or she is the worst shot in the history of people to ever qualify for a
Florida Concealed Weapons Permits.
|Bullet hole pic 1|
2. Rico Gray never
abused Marissa or anyone else. If he
did, it is not relevant to the case.
has made to the press relate to Rico Gray’s well-documented, yet often denied,
history of violence towards his significant other(s). This history of violence
has frequently been minimized or deemed irrelevant by Angela Corey. Just this week, she took the unusual step of
allowing Rico Gray to speak to the Jacksonville-based media from her own office. In his virtual joint press
conference with Corey, Rico Gray implied that the stuff he said in a past
deposition about having “five babies’ mamas” and putting “hands on every last one of them except
one” was a lie to protect Marissa.
Lie or not, Angela Corey has insisted that “not all of that is
relevant,” to the case.
system that believes you are innocent until proven guilty. But to be even clearer, this man has told a
different tale about his domestic violence (or three tales in the 911 tape)
virtually every time he speaks to someone.
women that have been previously involved with Rico Gray. In fact, the jury was unable to see several
letters written by former wives,
girlfriends or in-laws of Rico Gray (many that barely knew Marissa Alexander)
that recounted bone-chilling stories of pistol-whipping, being beaten and
stripped of clothing, and having door locks super-glued on them. Perhaps the
most relevant part of their accounts isn’t the alleged history of abuse but
Rico Gray’s alleged attempts to cover up that abuse by manipulating and lying
to law enforcement. At least one of those alleged cover-ups involved Gray
enlisting his younger son, who was also a key witness in Marissa’s trial, in
lying to law enforcement. In a previous piece, we highlighted the story of
Chartrissia Anderson, who claimed that during a specific incident in which she
called the police on Gray, he stabbed himself with a fork and asked his younger
son to tell the police that Chartrissia did it.
But there are other cases too.
- An ex-partner and mother of one of Rico Gray’s children
(the same one that testified in court during Marissa’s trial) alleged that
Rico called the police on her after he threw a chair through her car
windshield, telling the police she was at his house threatening him with a
gun. According to her, the police never
found a gun because she never had one. “[Rico] has had me arrested 3 times
because I fought back.” She said. “He is the biggest liar I have ever met…he
make[s] you believe he is innocent.”
- Another letter written to the court by a woman who didn’t
experience Rico’s attacks but witnessed his rage against one of his former
partners stated, “I can only imagine
what he did behind closed doors with Marissa.
I can attest to being in fear for my life, and he wasn’t upset with me…”
history of violence, especially when that history of violence includes
allegations of lying to law enforcement and recruiting other eyewitnesses (his
children) in covering up his abuse? I
have yet to hear an answer that satisfies me. It is also not clear why Rico
Gray’s recantation of his 66-page deposition admitting to abusing all five of
his “babies’ mamas, except one,” is taken at face value. Admitting to abusing five
ex-girlfriends/wives “except one” seems
like a very oddly specific lie to make up to protect someone.
just doing her job. If you want to blame something, blame Florida’s 10/20/Life
mandatory minimum laws.
sentencing laws, the ones that gave Marissa an automatic 20 year sentence just
for firing a gun without hitting anyone, are absolving the prosecutor in this
case of any sins in the same way that the “stand your ground” debate helped to
absolve the police and original prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case of their
mishandling of his murder investigation. In an otherwise good piece on CNN’s
website, Roland Martin points to the 10/20/Life
law as being the real shame of the Marissa Alexander case. If only that were
true. Despite Angela Corey’s insistence to me that she tried her best to be
equitable in Marissa’s case, the record says the opposite. While it is clear
that the 10/20/life laws of Florida really do tie the hands of judges in
sentencing, they often end up making the prosecutor the king/queen of the
courtroom. As a former prosecutor and a
defense attorney told me on my show Wednesday, Angela Corey had plenty of
choices if she wanted to properly penalize Marissa for shooting a wall but
still ensure a fairer sentence (as compared to people that …you know…decapitated someone). The original arrest report, seems to confirm that fact.
under the charges. The firearms aspect
of the aggravated assault charges seems to have been added on later (or
enhanced) by Corey’s office. As former prosecutor Eric Matheny told me on the show, at that point, Angela Corey didn’t
have to add the enhancement that brings with it the mandatory 20 year
“I’ll tell you what they could’ve done because I had this exact situation…I had a client who was an elderly gentleman…in his 80’s…he was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm…what [the prosecutors] did was they charged him with aggravated assault, they did not list the firearm enhancement…punishable by five years in prison, no mandatory minimum…if found guilty the judge would’ve been free to do whatever the judge wants to do…prison…probation…”
are other, more appropriate charges that Marissa could have been charged with
that would have had severe sentences, but not quite the 20-year mandated prison
“An assault (second degree misdemeanor) could have been charged instead of an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon…which would probably have been the appropriate charge in this case.”
is necessary to discourage people from firing guns.
Marissa Alexander’s sentence is appropriate reiterate a point that she made to
“I feel like when someone fires a loaded gun inside of
a home…we have to have tough laws that say you don’t do that”
outraged by this case, Marissa’s conviction seems to be having the opposite
effect of what Ms. Corey suggests. “If she was going to get twenty years
anyway, she should have just killed him [Gray], so other women wouldn’t have to
suffer!” has been a common refrain in personal conversations and comment boards
since Marissa’s sentencing. That is part of a “perverse irony” Greg Newburn from Families Against Mandatory Minimums describes:
“Let’s face it, there is a significant possibility that she wouldn’t have faced any prosecution at all had she killed him, because there wouldn’t have been a second story to contradict hers…her decision not to kill this person is what put her in prison for 20 years…that’s a perverse irony of the law [10/20/life].”
case. For one, victims have a fundamental
right to stop being victims. I also
believe that the outcome of Marissa’s case, coupled with the outcome of the
Trayvon Martin case, will for generations to come determine the future of race
relations, victim’s rights, defendant’s rights and basic conceptions of
justice. As it stands now, there is a
chance that of two individuals, both claiming self defense in a case prosecuted by
the same person, one may be imprisoned for twenty years for hurting no one
while the other just might go free after killing someone.
As the first outlet to read and disclose the actual evidence in the case to the public, please read some of our other work on the case, including The Different Views on Marissa Alexander’s Case. To check out our other work on Marissa Alexander, check them out here, here, here and here.
Also check out our radio program where we interview Angela Corey below.
recent sentencing of Marissa Alexander to 20 years in prison has everybody talking and in its wake we at Let’s Talk About It! did what we do, put out the facts with a little of our input and let you decide. We specifically had something to say about what Angela Corey has been saying in the media. Check it out.
But what we really wanted to know is what the prosecutor could have done differently. To understand that and the confusing criminal law on the books, we talked to former prosecutor and current defense attorney Eric Matheny and civil rights/criminal defense attorney (and friend of the show) John De Leon Hear what they had to say.
also spoke with Greg Newburn, the Florida director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, about the Marissa Alexander case and about the
effect that mandatory minimum sentences have on the justice system in
Florida. He explained that in many states legislators pass mandatory
minimum sentence laws without fully knowing what the consequences of the
laws may be and how often times they are applied in situations where
they were not originally intended. Newburn also informed us and our
listeners of the numerous other examples of mandatory minimum sentences
being applied to folks who, like Marissa, did not end up injuring or
killing anyone before moving on to discuss the implications of a legal
structure which encourages citizens to carry guns and to defend
themselves on the one hand and then hits those same citizens with stiff
penalties for doing just that.
President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Desmond Meade,
also joined us to discuss his take on mandatory minimum sentencing.
Meade said he gets upset whenever he hears the argument that
mandatory minimums are being applied in ways not foreseen by legislators
because in many cases those legislators never bothered to read the
bills in the first place. He doesn’t see the problem as being merely
structural or legalistic but also as the product of the poor
relationship that police departments and the legal system have to
minority communities in particular. This segment is a must.
Finally we close out the show with some local news. Namely, the
eviction of Angela Samuels and the 10 workers fired from the Mardi Gras
Casino for organizing a union.
kill. Although her attorney promises to
appeal, she may still do two decades behind bars for an incident in which no
one was either killed or hurt. This all started after Marissa Alexander was arrested in August 2010 for firing a shot that she claims was a warning shot to repel an abusive husband (Rico Gray) but
prosecutors claim was out of anger and could have harmed two children that were
in the house at the time. I have been following this case since April, talking
to scores of people involved in the case including Marissa’s ex-husband/current
advocate Lincoln Alexander, the lead Prosecutor Angela Corey (who is also the
prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case), Marissa’s sister Helena Jenkins,
Marissa’s lawyer Kevin Cobbin, and many others.
very little can convince me that this woman deserves to do twenty years in
prison for hurting no one. But I have
tried, in my radio coverage, and writing (like here and here) on the case, to cite as much of the
evidence available, so that people may make up their own minds. In fact, our show was the first media outlet
to actually cite the statements made by Rico Gray in a damning deposition.
from telling me on Tuesday that the media (including me) are “riling” people up
and spreading “misinformation.” Well,
let me layout all of the information (most of the interviews are from our last show) that I have so that people will understand
why I keep writing and talking about this case.
of three who had just given birth to a premature child nine days before her
arrest on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to
kill after discharging a legally owned firearm in the home jointly owned by her
and her estranged husband at the time, Rico Gray. Rico Gray’s children were present in the
apartment at the time.
of physical abuse that he has alternatively admitted and denied.
prosecutors dispute that Marissa Alexander was a likely victim of domestic
violence. However, Angela Corey’s
office argued in a brief that the violence only resulted in “minor bruising”
and never “resulted in serious bodily harm to her.”
wall of the apartment that neither killed nor hurt anyone. She claimed the shot was fired in
self-defense, but prosecutors claim it was out of anger.
*After Marissa’s arrest, Rico Gray gave a
66 page deposition where he admitted
that Marissa did not point the gun at
him or his kids and that he would have “put his hands on her.” It was in this same deposition that we heard
that he put his hand on “all five of his babies’ mamas except one.” He would later retract those statements,
saying that he made them up to protect Marissa Alexander.
on bond, Marissa was arrested for an alleged attack on Rico Gray where he
claimed she gave him a black eye and she was taken to the hospital.
disputed by someone. Here are the
questions in the case, and their answers from the different voices involved.
Marissa Alexander fire a warning shot out of fear, or shoot out of anger? Did she aim at Rico and his children?
Angela Corey: “the bullet happened to
ricochet up into the ceiling instead of into one of the two children she aimed
the gun at… the 911 call backs up the version that she went and got the gun and
fired it out of anger, not fear.”Kevin Cobbin: “the shot that was fired went
through the wall in an upward direction right into the ceiling…Even Mr. Gray’s
own son said that the gun was never pointed at anyone…Ms. Alexander went from
having the gun down by her side when she was attacked, she raised it up in the
air, flinched because she was afraid that she was going to get hit by him [Rico
Gray] and fired one shot and it went straight up in a angular trajectory to the
wall into the ceiling.”Rico Gray (911 call)::06-“She just shot at me with her gun…”:46-“She was shooting at me and my son” 4:45-“I can’t believe she’d shoot in front of me…[corrects
himself] shoot at [emphasis his] me…I’m so pissed off right now.” 4:54-“I’m so pissed off right now.” 7:12-“She just aimed the gun at us then she
shot…well I know she probably wasn’t aiming at my kids…but she might as well
Rico Gray (In the deposition): “I was walking toward
her because she was telling me to leave the whole time…I was cursing and all
that…and she shot in the air one time…(later in deposition)…if my kids weren’t
there I probably would have put my hands on her.”
Rico Gray to Politic365blog : “I was begging for my
life while my kids were holding on to my side, the gun was pointed at me.”
Rico Gray to Loop21blog : ““When the incident
happened, I thought I was going to die in front of my kids that day…She pointed
the gun at me…and my kids.”
case have asked me why, if she aimed and fired the gun at Rico Gray and his
children, she was not charged for a crime other than aggravated assault without
intent to kill? Is it possible to aim a
gun at one (or three) people, fire at them, and not intend to kill them? While lawyers and prosecutors may scoff at the
general public’s naiveté of the legal nuances of the criminal justice system, that scoffing probably won’t make the questions go away.
|pic 1 of house and bullet hole|
|pic 2 of house and bullet hole|
about the testimony of the children? Although no transcript of the children’s
testimony is publicly available yet, there are court documents that refer to
the testimony of both of Rico Gray’s children, who were 9 and 13 at the time :
Angela Corey: “They [Rico and his eldest
son] changed their stories and then they changed it back, and the 911 call
backs up the version that she went and got the gun and fired a shot out of
anger, not out of fear.”
One of his sons, who was reportedly
“holding on to” Mr. Gray’s side when Marissa fired the shot, testified that he
did not see Marissa Alexander fire the gun, and only heard it.
The mother of one of Rico Gray’s children
testified in court that her son explained to her, “Ms. Alexander did not fire at
us, but rather fired in the air because Dad was beating her.”According to Kevin Cobbin, at this point,
both children have changed their stories at least once and have at some point
corroborated Marissa Alexander’s story.
Rico Gray a credible eyewitness? The
most controversial figure in this case is Marissa’s husband Rico Gray. It is really hard not to question his
credibility given his changing statements and his alleged history of
violence. But there are differing
Angela Corey regarding Rico Gray’s history
of violence: “Not all of that is relevant, his reputation for violence is
relevant but…we have rules of evidence that limit the way that evidence can
come in.”Chartrissia Anderson (former partner of
Rico Gray) : “I’ve been hit in the
mouth, pushed into walls, he’s run me into neighbor’s homes, he’s beaten
me…outside to where I have been stripped of my clothing…The last time…he hit me
in my mouth. I went into my sons room to
call the police and he started to yank the cord out of the wall. Once he
realized the call had went through, he ran into our kitchen…pulled out a
fork…took the fork, stood in front of his son …and started stabbing himself…and
told his son [the same youngest son that testified in Marissa Alexander’s case]
to tell the police…that I [Chartrissia] had done it.”Kevin Cobbin: “Mr. Gray has gotten very
good at knowing how to play the system.
And a lot of these men, who abuse women, are very good. They know, ‘if I punch her in the face she is
gonna have a mark. But if I punch her in
the head…back…stomach, it won’t be visible.”
Rico Gray a victim too? When speaking to
Loop21 and Politic365, Rico Gray has intimated that he has been a victim of
domestic violence as well, citing an incident after Marissa Alexander’s arrest
where she allegedly gave him a black eye.
That incident was probably the most damaging claim made against
Angela Corey: “What do you make of a woman
who claims she is so afraid of him that she had to fire a gun at him, and then
despite a judge’s order while she is out on bond for these charges, goes back
over there and hits him, gives him a black eye and goes to jail for it?”Kevin Cobbin: “My client went over to that
house because she had to get a birth certificate signed, her child was born
premature and was about to be cut off of health insurance…when she gets over
there, he wants her to stay, she says no…and he jumps on her again that day. The police came and took her to the hospital,
they didn’t take him to the hospital.”
didn’t Marissa Alexander take a plea?
Angela Corey: “we offered her a plea deal
[three years] that she turned down because she thought she would have better
luck with the jury.”Kevin Cobbin: “My client has maintained her
innocence from the first day I met her until today. Her story has remained the same; it has been
backed up. Why should someone that’s
innocent, who has done nothing wrong but defend themselves, why should they
take any day in prison?”Rico Gray: “Personally, I wish she would
have taken the three years…”What troubles me the most about the
conversations on the plea deal is that, at times, it seems that Ms. Alexander
is being punished for not taking a plea.
Also, as a domestic violence survivor told me, “when looking at a mother
of three, spending three years in prison does not feel like a deal for a crime
in which you have no prior record, you neither killed nor hurt anyone, and you
would be spending three times more time behind bars for hurting no one than
Rico Gray would face for his domestic battery (of Chartrissia Anderson)
sentence in 2006, for which he received probation.”
around discharging firearms, especially in homes, I cannot look at the evidence that has been
made public and say that Marissa Alexander deserves to be in jail. As the spouse of a former domestic violence
advocate, I cannot say that “minor bruising” is not enough to make a victim of
domestic violence afraid for their life.
As a human being, I can say that it is important to defend people’s rights
to no longer be victims. There are many
victims in this case, Marissa Alexander, her kids, Rico Gray’s kids, the
families of everyone involved. But if
Ms. Alexander truly watches her kids grow up while she is behind bars, the true
victim in this case will be justice.
“I want to address my children, you’re your mothers daughter. You’re
strong, you are black and you are beautiful and whenever you need me
don’t think the distance should keep you away from me, okay? Cause I’ll
be here for you sooner than you think.
You, you are your father’s son, you have wisdom about yourself. Rihanna
Gray, last time I saw you, you were 7 months and now your 22 months. I
breast fed you and spent hours with you. My love is here without seeing
you or not and I know that angels are watching over you and one thing I
pray is that my heartbeat beats once w/ yours so that we are all in
unison. I want to address my Gray children, in the short time I got to
know you , you meant a lot to me as well. I encourage you all to not let
this situation impact you in a way and I will continue to pray for you
all and I know that you’ll be okay. I am simply a woman who loved a man
very much, I got no apologies, I have nothing else to say.”
Also, please check our original interview with Prosecutor Angela Corey
1. No Love in North Carolina
This week North Carolina became the latest state to pass a
constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnership (gay, straight or otherwise) which has taken over the headlines this week. On the show, we
spoke with anti-amendment activists Wooten Gough of El Cambio and Kai
Barrow of Southerners on the Ground who both had much to
say about the amendment and its aftermath. Barrow discussed the necessity
of framing the passage of the marriage amendment not as a gay rights
issue but rather as part of a more broad discourse around the basic
rights of human beings. She also described this amendment as being
critical because of its role in a greater attempt by the radical right
to lock in discriminatory policies that are detrimental to everyone’s
freedom. Gough spoke about what it has been like to live as a gay man in
rural North Carolina and his fears that this trend of states passing
constitutional amendments to ban same sex marriages may continue to
We were also joined by Pastor Jimmy Chalmers from North Carolina who
was a part of the effort to block the passage of this new amendment even
though he considers himself to be a political and theological
conservative. Pastor Chalmers discussed the role of faith and public
policy as well as the inordinate power that religious leaders have in
shaping the political opinions of their congregations. Subhash and
Reverend Chalmers also talk about what they see as being the real
threats to families. To here this segment, download it here or press play below.
2. Exclusive Update on Marissa Alexander
As you may know, Let’s Talk About It! has been among the most faithful followers of
the Marissa Alexander case. We followed up just two days before her sentencing with a bombshell interview with Angela Corey, the prosecutor in the case (and the current prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case), Kevin Cobbin, Marissa Alexander’s attorney, Chartrissia Anderson (a former partner of Rico Gray, Marissa Alexander’s husband/”victim”/accuser), Lincoln Alexander (Marissa’s ex-husband/current advocate) and Angie Nixon (Florida New Majority). Angela Corey expressed her displeasure (to
put it mildly) with the media (that means us) and their presentation of
the case which she believes to be lopsided. We discussed what it means
when Alexander’s husband, the star witness in the case, presents three
different accounts of what happened the night of the incident. We even played excerpts from the original 911 tape. Alexander’s attorney, Kevin Cobbin, who
makes it clear that neither he nor Alexander is trying to attack the
state attorney’s office but that they need to find out why the system is
not working for Marissa. If you care about this case, you absolutely must hear this segment by downloading here or pressing play below.
Look out for more info soon.