Marissa Alexander wasn’t in the room, but she thanked the people who have supported her Friday afternoon in a letter read by her mother during the first day of what is expected to be a week that focuses on Alexander’s case in Jacksonville.


Alexander, 33, charged with three counts of aggravated assault during a dispute with estranged husband Rico Gray, faces 60 years in prison for firing what she said was a warning shot in the direction of Gray and his two children. Her case has generated international attention.

“To all my supporters in Jacksonville I am grateful for everyone who has supported me,” said Helen Jenkins, Alexander’s mother, while reading from her daughter’s letter. “God’s power gives me great strength.”

Alexander is under house arrest and only allowed to leave her home for court appearances and doctor’s appointments. At the end of her letter, Alexander said she was grateful to all the people who support her, and hoped to thank them in person someday.

Jenkins spoke during the first day of an event being billed as “Stand Our Ground Week.”

The week will focus on Alexander’s case but also highlight the trend of mass incarceration of black people, criticize the Stand Your Ground law that exists in Florida and include seminars, concerts and marches focused on Alexander that are critical of the way the criminal justice system now operates.

“It’s about Marissa, but it’s also about other women in Marissa’s situation,” said Aleta Alston-Toure, a founder of Free Marissa Now, an organization devoted to freeing Alexander.

About 25 people saw Jenkins read her daughter’s letter Friday in a ballroom of the Crowne Plaza on Riverplace Boulevard.

Alston-Toure said about 200 people are expected to take part in events during the week, but that number could double.

Alexander and her attorneys insist she wasn’t trying to hit Gray or his two children from a previous relationship when she fired a shot. She said the incident, which happened days after she’d given birth, began when Gray accused her of infidelity and questioned whether the newborn was his.

Alexander told him to leave and locked herself in the bathroom until he broke through the door, grabbed her by the neck and shoved her to the floor, according to police and court documents. She ran into the garage but found she couldn’t leave because the garage door wouldn’t open.

She got a gun from the glove compartment of a car in the garage and went back into the house. When Gray saw her, she said he charged, saying he was going to kill her. Alexander fired the gun.

Alexander said it was a warning shot while prosecutors say the bullet hit the wall, not the ceiling, and could have killed Gray or his children.

She claimed Stand Your Ground, but a judge rejected that claim before her original criminal trial, where she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. An appellate court later overturned that sentence because the trial judge made a mistake during jury selection.

Alexander recently asked for a second Stand Your Ground hearing to introduce new evidence before her retrial, but Circuit Judge James Daniel turned down that request, a fact that several people at Friday’s event criticized.

“So many folks are really raising their eyes at the injustice here,” Simpson said.

Larry Hannan: (904) 359-4470