Sept. 26, 2013 Reuters
TALLAHASSEE, Florida - A woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a "warning shot" during an argument with her abusive husband won a new trial on Thursday in a case under Florida's controversial self-defense law.
A state appeals court ruled that Marissa Alexander, 32, deserved a new trial because the judge failed to properly instruct the jury regarding her claim of self-defense.
No one was injured in the shooting but because Alexander fired a gun in the incident, Florida's mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines required the judge to sentence her to 20 years in prison.
The case of Alexander, who is black, drew criticism from civil rights groups concerned about self-defense laws and mandatory minimum sentencing rules.
Alexander's fate received little attention until her May 2012 conviction in the wake of the case of volunteer watchman George Zimmerman who said he shot a teenager in self defense. The Zimmerman case led to nationwide protests and re-ignited a debate about U.S. gun laws.
Zimmerman, who is white, said he killed an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in self defense in February 2012. He was acquitted of murder charges in July at his trial in the central Florida town of Sanford. Read More