Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Consequences of Firing A Gun Near Someone

If your name is Aaron Alexis and you later become famous for killing twelve people, you can fire a gun in the ceiling and not get prosecuted:

On Sept. 5, 2010, he was arrested in Fort Worth on suspicion of discharging a weapon. Alexis reportedly told officials that the gun had discharged accidentally when he was cleaning it. The Tarrant County district attorney did not prosecute.
If your name is Allen West and you later become famous as a politician, you can fire a gun near a military prisoner and end up with a $5000.00 fine:
While serving as a battalion commander in Iraq in 2003, the Palm Beach Gardens Republican fired a gun near a prisoner's head to scare the prisoner into giving up information on ambush plans. He was fined $5,000 for misconduct and assault. The Army opted against a court martial, however, and he was honorably discharged with benefits.

If your name is Marissa Alexander, and you fire a gun in the air as a warning during a struggle with your abusive husband, you get sentenced for twenty years in prison:

Marissa Alexander, the African-American woman who was sentenced to 20 years for discharging a firearm in Florida despite pleading Stand Your Ground against her husband, will get a new trial. Alexander, 32, said she fired a bullet at the ceiling because she was afraid of her husband. No one was injured. It took 12 minutes for the jury to convict her.
“We reject her contention that the trial court erred in declining to grant her immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law,” wrote Judge James H. Daniel, “but we remand for a new trial because the jury instructions on self-defense were erroneous.”
Alexander, who had given birth the week before, testified that after an altercation regarding texts from her ex-husband, she locked herself in the bathroom. Her husband Rico Gray broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her into the door. She ran to the garage, found she couldn’t get the door open, and returned with a gun. When Gray saw the gun, he said, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” Alexander testified that firing the gun into the air as a warning shot was “the lesser of two evils.”
The jury rejected her self-defense argument, and instead Alexander was sentenced under the “10-20-Life” law, which carries a series of mandatory minimum sentences related to gun crimes. The prosecutor in her case was Angela Corey, who also prosecuted George Zimmerman who was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin. After an outcry at the apparent racial double standard in the application of Stand Your Ground, Corey told the Washington Post, “I think social media is going to be the destruction of this country.”
 I am glad that she gets a new trial.

I understand that these three cases were not judged under the same legal rules.  But still.