Saying the community needs to move on and deal with violent crime, Jacksonville area pastors are calling for State Attorney Angela Corey to offer Marissa Alexander the same plea deal she rejected before she was originally convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Alexander, 33, rejected a deal that would have sent her to prison for three years. She was later convicted and sentenced to 20 years, but that conviction was overturned on appeal.
“Given that she’s been granted a chance at a retrial, she should have the chance at a redo,” said the Rev. Mark Griffin of Wayman Ministries.
Attorney Bruce Zimet, who represents Alexander, has previously said she would listen to all offers from prosecutors. Alexander could face 60 years in prison if she’s convicted again.
If the same plea deal was offered now, Alexander would likely be a free woman in a matter of months because of time already served. She was in jail and prison from February 2011 to November 2013. She was released on bond last year after her conviction was overturned after an appeals court ruled the judge improperly instructed the jury on how it should consider her claims of self-defense.
Alexander was convicted on charges of firing a gun at her estranged husband, Rico Gray, and two of his children. She said it was a warning shot.
Alexander’s trial, now scheduled for July 28, is expected to be a national media frenzy, a prospect Griffin dreads following the trials of Michael Dunn in Jacksonville and George Zimmerman in Sanford.
“A third racially polarizing trial would not be good for blacks or whites in this community,” he said. “We have been in the national and international spotlight for all the wrong reasons.”
No matter what the verdict, nothing good will come out of this trial for Jacksonville, Griffin said.
The Rev. Marvin McQueen II of First Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville Beach said the city needs to address its growing crime problem, and that is difficult with the Alexander case sucking up all the attention.
“This is a chance to begin the healing and benefit the community,” he said.
The Rev. Kenneth Adkins of Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship in Brunswick, Ga., said black-on-black crime needs to be addressed and the pastors need to discuss ways to find improvement with law enforcement. He said that becomes easier if the Alexander case is done.
“The city isn’t getting a chance to heal,” Adkins said.
The State Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but last week the office told WJXT TV-4 that the State Attorney’s Office does not extend plea offers publicly.
Griffin said the call for a plea deal shouldn’t be taken as support for Alexander or a criticism of the state attorney, but as a call for everyone to do what is right.
Griffin was a vocal figure in the Jacksonville anti-crime initiative that occurred after 8-year-old DreShawna Davis was killed in 2006. One of his reasons for speaking out now is concern that the community is reverting back to the type of crime that occurred then.
Larry Hannan: (904) 359-4470