Saturday, July 20, 2013

Justice for Marissa Alexander

Consider this: In the state of Florida, a young woman who "stood her ground" was sentenced to twenty years in prison last year for firing warning shots at her abusive husband whom she had previously filed an order of protection against. The young woman in question, a mother-of-three named Marissa Alexander, had no criminal record. She is an African American - but I'm sure that that's just a coincidence. I'm just kidding. That was no coincidence; in fact the jaw-dropping harshness of her punishment was almost inevitable. Do you believe for an instant that had she been an upper middle class white woman she would have received the same treatment? Are you naive enough to swallow the notion that had she been the daughter of former governor, Jeb Bush (who has a criminal record by the way), she would be looking at a twenty year stretch? If that is the case, go back to sleep. I'm attempting a serious discussion here.

First and foremost: Fuck Florida. There ought to be a nationwide tourism boycott of what must be the most overrated peninsula on this planet. You want to take your kids to a nice spot for a vacation? Try a mountain lake resort or a national park. To hell with Disney World. 

The Sunshine State is a sick joke. I spent enough time there in the eighties - lived there on and off for a spell - that I am able to speak with some authority on the subject. When I arrived there in  the late winter of 1984, I set up headquarters in Naples, which overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. You wanna talk about humid? The summer of 1986 was particularly brutal. I never dreamed it could get that hot. In fact it's too damned hot for some people to think rationally. That's becoming more and more apparent these days, isn't it - George Zimmerman is a free man. Marissa Alexander languishes in a prison cell. Do they even have air-conditioning in those jury rooms? You gotta wonder.

Twenty Years
At the time I lived there (or so it was told to me by the gloating locals) Naples had the highest rate of millionaires per capita than any other town in America. For the first four months of occupation I did not see one black person. It was only after I had hauled across Alligator Alley into Fort Lauderdale to visit an old friend of mine, that I finally encountered one - a woman behind the counter of a deli who sold me a six-pack of Budweiser Tall Boys. I remember staring at her for a few seconds in utter disbelief. I felt like a bird watcher who had just come across a passenger pigeon. You want to check out a REALLY Jim Crow town? Take a little trip to Naples sometime.

YO, FELLOW HONKIES!  Let's stop kidding ourselves, alright? We may not admit as much out loud, but we all know damned well that there are two different standards of justice here in Bonkers Land: one for them and one for us. Enough with the self-deception, alright?

It has been suggested to me that had Marissa just shot her husband dead, a justifiable argument for the Stand Your Ground defense could have been made and she, like Georgie Boy Zimmerman, would be walking free as a bird today. It's interesting to note that the two people who have made this suggestion to me (posted on my Facebook page) are both white men. Let's get real here, guys. If Marissa Alexander had shot and killed her husband she would be rotting on death row at this very moment. Get a grip.

Boy George
Marissa was convicted of attempted murder. Why the hell is that? She didn't "attempt" to murder anyone. She fired at the wall inside of her home. Her husband has a history of violence - and he was in a rage when he found the record of a call from her ex-husband on her cell phone. If Stand Your Ground can apply to a twit with an action-figure-complex like George Zimmerman who (lest we forget) shot and killed an unarmed, seventeen-year-old boy, why does it not apply to Marissa Alexander? Would somebody please explain to me what is wrong with this picture? Anybody? The judge who sent Marissa to prison is named James Daniel. One wonders if he has read that little blurb in the Constitution about "cruel and unusual punishment".

Or maybe Stand Your Ground only applies to non-black males. Never mind.

Am I "fanning the flames" here? You bet I am, Buster! A good-sized fire is capable of lighting even the darkest American night. Inside the courtroom when Marissa was sentenced on May 12, 2012 was her eleven-year-old daughter. "I really was crying in there", she told a reporter from WETV, "I didn't want to cry in court, but I just really feel hurt. I don't think this should have been happening." An understatement if ever there was one. I've got a funny feeling that this poor kid is going to grow into maturity with not much faith in the system of justice they've got down there in Florida. Can you blame her? 

And don't hold your breath waiting for a little compassion from über aryan, Rick Scott. Poor old Rick is a bit of a sociopath - a fact that is revealed in every one of his public deeds. I'm sure that Rick has a list of a few (or more) of his white-collar-colleagues that he plans on pardoning before his term of office is complete. Marissa Alexander's name is not on that list. Call it a silly hunch on my part. Compassion is not his schtick.

Now would be a pretty good time for all of us to get mobilized on Marissa's behalf. She's already been in prison for over a year. Even a sentence that long should be deemed unreasonable. Her's was not a victimless crime. She is the victim. In case it's escaped your notice, these are not the greatest of times for women in this country. Double Trouble if you happen to have been born an African American woman. What has been done to Marissa Alexander should send thinking people everywhere into a blind rage. If the governor of Florida refuses to grant her a full and unconditional pardon (as I said, don't hold your breath) then the president of the United States should do it. This just isn't right.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here is a link to the Facebook page that was put up in support of Marissa Alexander:

Log in and show her your support when you can, okay?


The Autobiography of Malcolm X
by Malcolm X (with Alex Haley)

Coincidentally (and very ironically) it was when I was living in Naples, Florida in 1986 that I first read this book. Walter Cronkite once said of his memoirs that people will be reading it five-hundred years into the future when most other books of the twentieth century are long forgotten. The Autobiography of Malcolm X grabbed my previous worldview, shook it up and then turned it upside down. This is a book that EVERYBODY - white or black - needs to read.


And send me a friend request if you'd like. The more the merrier, as they say!

BREAKING NEWS, 10:39 AM: It has just been announced that Helen Thomas, the trailblazing journalist who covered the White House as a reporter for ten consecutive administrations, died this morning at her apartment in New York City. She was ninety-two.

According to POLITICO: "Thomas was the first woman to join the White House Correspondents' Association, and the first woman to serve as its president. She was also the first female member of the Gridiron Club, Washington's historic press club."

I always admired that gal. Like the old Rat Pack tune says, "You've either got or you haven't got style". Indeed. Helen Thomas had style to spare. She didn't merely blaze a trail, she incinerated it.

AFTERTHOUGHT, 7/21/13 - 7:53 AM:

I was in Chester, NY yesterday afternoon at Monro Muffler having my oil changed and a brake light replaced. I was walking past a group of cars being worked on when the license plate of one of them caught my eye:


I love it!

UPDATE, 9/27/13, 7:15 AM: 


It was announced yesterday that Marissa will be receiving a new trial. It turns out that the sentence was even too excessive for the dingbats down there. It's a beautiful day.

For more recent postings on this site, please go to the link below:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan



At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen Thomas RIP, please.

I got first dibs on her broom!!

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Chuck Morre said...

1. How can I find more about the actual trial, IE how her defense handled the case,? Reason, need all facts before making judgment about the results.
2. This case has zero to do with gun rights or race. Why try to make it into one?
3. This case is about a state law regarding the use of deadly force.
4. You ask if the woman had been white middle class if results would have been the same. I don't know, but I do know that the DOJ will not investigate this case because it is black on black not other race on black. That is racism!!
5. Since you admit to fanning the flames, what is the goal you hope for by doing so?
6. What does the criminal record of a former gov's daughter have to do with this case? After all, the women's husband had a record, did he go to jail for violation of his restraining order against him?
7. I would like your thoughts on this case of white on black killing.

Over all Tom, one of you weaker threads. All emotion of the day with a stated goal of fanning the flames but without what the goal is by doing so. (Bring Martin back from the dead, execute Zimmerman, get an appeal for MS. Alexandra?) I would suggest that instead of wasting time and money and energy that you start a fund raising for her appeal. Protests in the streets do not get justice, but raising funds if needed for an appeal could.

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous OJ Simpson said...

Shit happens Tom!

Some of us get away with murder and some of us go to jail for firing a gun!

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Dave W said...


Can you do a rant about how George Bush and the Nazi Tea Party were the reason why Detroit has gone bankrupt?

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Dave W said...

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs! Only then will we have Democracy in Amerika free from the 1 percenters!

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Dave W said...

A better and peaceful world is possible — a world where people and nature come before profits! Fuk the Koch Brothers! Fuk the Plutocracy! Socialism is the New World Order! That’s my vision!

At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is odd, I didn't see this on the major network news programs. Why did that happen?

At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Susie Q said...

Dear Chuck Morre,
Thank you for your pointed critique of Tom's rant. To balance things out, I have to say this is not one of your best, most lucid, intellegent or coherent ones either. You state that you need all of the facts before making judgement, then you proceed to go right ahead and make judgement. Also I would like to point out that you negelcted to somehow bring your obsession with abortion into the argument. Surely you can do better than this. Overall, I would give you a failing grade.

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous James said...

Chuck, here is more information about the case:

This is a example of mandatory sentencing gone haywire, the judge has no recourse but to follow the law to the letter.

She was foolish to fire the gun but a 20 year prison term is like a death sentence.

At 7:33 PM, Blogger Modusoperandi said...

Chuck Morre "I would suggest that instead of wasting time and money and energy that you start a fund raising for her appeal."
Anonymous, her facebook page, a petition to Gov Scot and a link to donate to her legal defense fund are listed here.

Dave W "Tom, Can you do a rant about how George Bush and the Nazi Tea Party were the reason why Detroit has gone bankrupt?"
Why? Decades of mediocre automobiles (versus a bunch of more mobile brands), both management and labor each thinking the gravy train would only get longer, and Globalization, in combination with a one-industry town built for two million having a population a third of that did it.

At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Ever owned a gun? Ever been trained on how to use one? you fire a gun when, and only when you think you are about to be killed or gravely injured. a warning shot only endangers others, bullets easily go through walls. there is no bullet that doesn't go through walls unless it's fired out of an airsoft gun. This isn't about race, it's about understanding the laws that govern the weapon you choose to own.

As far as 20 years goes, yeah, that's a lot. However it's the same ridiculous sentence someone gets for possessing plants that apparently make black men want to rape white women (look up the reasoning why marijuana was made illegal).

Maybe the problem is the politicians who just want to "do something" to make themselves look important. Maybe I'm wrong.

At 12:30 AM, Blogger Harley A. said...

From Huff Po article on the subject...

"In central Florida, a white man named Orville Lee Wollard is nearly two years into a 20-year sentence for firing his gun inside his house to scare his daughter's boyfriend. Prosecutors contended that Wollard was shooting at the young man and missed.

He rejected a plea deal that offered probation but no prison time. Like Alexander, he took his chances at trial and was convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm. Circuit Judge Donald Jacobsen said he was "duty bound" by the 10-20-life law to impose the harsh sentence.

"I would say that, if it wasn't for the minimum mandatory aspect of this, I would use my discretion and impose some separate sentence, having taken into consideration the circumstances of this event," Jacobsen said."

Miscarriage of justice in the sentencing of Alexander, for sure - no argument. Bad policy to legislate mandatory sentences - yes. Racially-charged? Not sure. Individual jurors, certainly possible. But, some kind of concerted effort on the state's part - I don't think so.

At 12:50 AM, Anonymous Chuck Morre said...

Susie Q said..

Thanks Susie Q for the kind and honest appraisal of my post.
I'm recovering from serious surgery that I wanted to get out of the way before the Affordable Health Care Act became 100% in effect. This recovery hasn't been as smooth as the 4 other operations for my issue were, so you are correct it's not my best effort. I'm sorry.

I could bring up the legalized murder of a human in their mothers womb by the thousands every year, but for your sake I wont.

But I to answer Tom's "question where is my out rage", it's where is always is. Where is his outrage over the murders of young blacks by other black with guns in the streets of Chicago and the murder of black kids while still in their mother womb?

I hope she appeals and gets out of jail, is what I hope. Maybe she should have tried the "twinky defense".

At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Harry from Michigan said...

“If Obama had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”

"If Obama had a nation, it would look like Haiti."

“If Obama had a city, it would look like Detroit.”

At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dave W "Tom, Can you do a rant about how George Bush and the Nazi Tea Party were the reason why Detroit has gone bankrupt?"
Why? Decades of mediocre automobiles (versus a bunch of more mobile brands), both management and labor each thinking the gravy train would only get longer, and Globalization, in combination with a one-industry town built for two million having a population a third of that did it."

Detroit WAS invaded by a foreign power. Detroit was conquered by the central planning statists, who initiate physical force to deprive the peaceful, responsible residents of their life, liberty, and property.

As Albert Jay Nock explains, the State is a hostile alien power that exhibits violence toward society and robs society of its substance. Government is NOT "just a word for things we do together"; government is a hostile and parasitic invasion force that destroys the things we do together.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Cirze said...

Hey Tom,

Nice essay.

I felt the same way when I read about her plight.


Love ou,


At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bet you didn't know this!!

– This past week President Obama publicly urged the reexamination of state self-defense laws. However, nine years ago then-State Sen. Barack Obama actually co-sponsored a bill that strengthened Illinois’ 1961 “stand your ground” law.

The Obama-sponsored bill (SB 2386) enlarged the state’s 1961 law by shielding the person who was attacked from being sued in civil court by perpetrators or their estates when a “stand your ground” defense is used in protecting his or her person, dwelling or other property.

The bill unanimously passed the Democrat-controlled Illinois Senate on March 25, 2004 with only one comment, and passed the Democrat-controlled Illinois House in May 2004 with only two votes in opposition. Then-Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) signed it into law.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darn that white Hispanic Zimmerman!

The family rescued by George Zimmerman after a rollover crash in Florida are terrified they will become targets for hate mobs who have made death threats to the neighborhood vigilante.

Mark and Dana Michelle Gerstle told friends they do not want to talk publicly about Zimmerman for fear they will be accused of portraying him as a hero – and face a backlash from those who consider he got away with murder.

‘They are very grateful to Zimmerman for what he did, but they do not want to get involved,’ said a friend, who asked not to be named.

‘There is so much hatred directed towards him they have got to think about their own family. There are a lot of crazies out there. If they say anything in support of him it could backfire.’

The neighborhood watch volunteer, who to many is the most hated man in America after being acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, helped save the family after a terrifying crash.

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Just the Facts said...

The Gerstles are wise not to praise that asshole. A thank you would suffice and I'm sure that was given.

Zimmerman "rescued" and "help save" the family? From what? Was the car burning? Was the family in danger? Or did he just assist them out?

Is that what makes him a hero? Got facts to support these words?

One needless stalking and slaughter of a human being, and assisting people from a car means he's a "hero"?

He was already a hero to the folks thrilled that he got away with killing a black guy.

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Al Sharptoon said...

We want justice for Marissa Alexander!

Just like we wanted justice for Tawana Brawley!

At 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You tell them JTF's and while you're at it try not to forget that Zimmerman was found INNOCENT in his trial. HAHAHA.

George Zimmerman is being hailed a HERO in Florida this morning ... after cops say he helped RESCUE a family of 4 from an overturned vehicle just days after the Trayvon Martin verdict.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office tells TMZ ... around 5:45 pm on Wednesday July 17, Zimmerman noticed an overturned SUV off a highway in Sanford, FL ... and sprang into action.

According to the SCSO, Zimmerman and another man approached the car and helped all 4 of the passengers -- 2 parents and 2 children -- get out of the wrecked car.

Cops say ... "Zimmerman was not a witness to the crash and left after making contact with the deputy. There were no reports of injuries to the vehicle occupants."

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Mozart1220 said...

It doesn't strike anyone as strange that Zimmerman, who has been in hiding just HAPPENED to be in a place where he could perform a "heroic act"?


Before anyone suggests that I think the accuident was staged, I dont, it's just an INCREDIBLE coincidence.

At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And that my fellow members of the Flat Earth Society, was wisdom from the winner of 2012 Liberal Spelling Bee, Mr. Mozart(accuident)1220!

At 7:07 PM, Blogger kootcoot said...

Boyo, boy Tom you sure attract the crazies here. I didn't know there were so many folks that could justify stalking and killing a teenager and still be offended at the idea of a black woman firing a warning shot (that hit no one, hurt nobody) to hopefully stop an abusive husband from harming her.

I have read somewhere that the same useless prosecutor that couldn't get Zimmerman convicted of stalking much less murder or manslaughter prosecuted Marissa. I don't think the prosecutor wanted a conviction.

At 1:29 AM, Blogger Mozart1220 said...

Anonymous does not accept the concept of TYPOS, but his obsession with them proves he has no valid argument against what I said.

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Just the Facts said...

"George Zimmerman got away with murder, but you can't get away from God. And at the end of the day, he's going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with," Juror B29 told ABC

At 1:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bet you never knew this, did you?

Did George Zimmerman get away with murder? That’s what one of his jurors says, according to headlines in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and dozens of other newspapers. Trayvon Martin’s mother and the Martin family’s attorney are trumpeting this “new information” as proof that “George Zimmerman literally got away with murder.”

The reports are based on an ABC News interview with Juror B29, the sole nonwhite juror. She has identified herself only by her first name, Maddy. She’s been framed as the woman who was bullied out of voting to convict Zimmerman. But that’s not true. She stands by the verdict. She yielded to the evidence and the law, not to bullying. She thinks Zimmerman was morally culpable but not legally guilty. And she wants us to distinguish between this trial and larger questions of race and justice.

ABC News hasn’t posted a full unedited video or transcript of the interview. The video that has been broadcast—on World News Tonight, Nightline, and Good Morning America—has been cut and spliced in different ways, often so artfully that the transitions appear continuous. So beware what you’re seeing. But the video that’s available already shows, on closer inspection, that Maddy has been manipulated and misrepresented. Here are the key points.

1. The phrase “got away with murder” was put in her mouth. Nightline shows ABC interviewer Robin Roberts asking Maddy: “Some people have said, ‘George Zimmerman got away with murder. How do you respond to those people who say that?’ ” Maddy appears to reply promptly and confidently: “George Zimmerman got away with murder. But you can’t get away from God.” But that’s not quite how the exchange happened. In the unedited video, Roberts’ question is longer, with words that have been trimmed from the Nightline version, and Maddy pauses twice, for several seconds, as she struggles to answer it. “… George Zimmerman … That’s—George Zimmerman got away with murder. But you can’t get away from God.”

You have to watch her, not just read her words, to pick up her meaning. As she struggles to answer, she looks as though she’s trying to reconcile the sentiment that’s been quoted to her—that Zimmerman “got away with murder”—with her own perspective. So she repeats the quote and adds words of her own, to convey what she thinks: that there’s a justice higher than the law, which Zimmerman will have to face. She thinks he’s morally culpable, not legally guilty.

2. She stands by the verdict. ABC’s online story about the interview ends with Maddy asking, “Did I go the right way? Did I go the wrong way?” But that’s not the whole quote. In the unedited video, she continues: “I know I went the right way, because by the law and the way it was followed is the way I went. But if I would have used my heart, I probably would have [gone for] a hung jury.” In another clip, she draws the same distinction: “I stand by the decision because of the law. If I stand by the decision because of my heart, he would have been guilty.” At one point, she says that “the evidence shows he’s guilty.” Roberts presses her: “He’s guilty of?” Maddy answers: “Killing Trayvon Martin. But as the law was read to me, if you have no proof that he killed him intentionally, you can’t say he’s guilty.” That’s the distinction she’s trying to draw here: Killing is one thing. Murder or manslaughter is another.

3. She thinks the case should never have gone to trial. According to ABC News, when Roberts asked “whether the case should have gone to trial,” Maddy answered, "I don't think so. … I felt like this was a publicity stunt.”

At 1:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4. The jury was not ethnically divided on Zimmerman’s culpability. Unlike Juror B37, who spoke to CNN, Maddy doesn’t say—at least not in the edited clips—that Zimmerman was a good man or that Martin shares the blame. But some white jurors seem to have shared Maddy’s feelings. “A lot of us had wanted to find something bad, something that we could connect to the law,” she says. “We felt he was guilty,” she adds in other comments quoted by ABC News. “But we had to grab our hearts and put it aside and look at the evidence."

5. Race wasn’t discussed, and she didn’t focus on it. Unlike Juror B37, Maddy knows what it’s like to be profiled. She says it has happened to her while shopping. But she withholds judgment as to the role of race in this case. Roberts asks: “How do you respond when you see people who are making this about race, who are saying, had Trayvon not been a young black man, that the conversation would be different?” Maddy tilts her head noncommittally and responds: “Is it true? That’s the question to be asked.” In another clip, Roberts says, “That was something that a lot of people from the outside thought must have been the discussion in the deliberations, about race, about color. But that wasn’t the case?” Maddy affirms, “It was not the case.” When the verdict was announced and she was released from sequestration, she was dismayed to discover the national outrage. “I didn’t know how much importance” was attached to the trial, she says, “because I never looked at color. And I still don’t look at color.”

The value of colorblindness is controversial. Some people believe that when you don’t talk about race in a case such as this one, you’re excluding racial bias. Others believe that you’re simply overlooking that bias. But Maddy’s comments indicate that sequestration worked. The jurors focused not on the meaning of the case to outsiders, but on the evidence and the law.

At 1:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

6. She was no pushover in the jury room. “I was the juror that was gonna give them the hung jury,” she says. “I fought to the end.” Roberts asks: “Did you feel a little, for lack of a better word, bullied in the deliberations?” ABC News seems to have cut the video here, so we don’t know what was taken out. But in the edited video, Maddy’s next words are, “I don’t know if I was bullied. I trust God that I wasn’t bullied.” Roberts asks, “Do you feel that your voice was heard?” Maddy assures her, “My voice was heard. I was the loudest.”

7. To the extent she feels racial or ethnic pressure, it’s against Zimmerman. In the Nightline video, Roberts notes that Maddy could have hung the jury. Roberts asks: “Do you have regrets that you didn’t?” Maddy pauses, tilts her head, and thinks about it. “Kind of. I mean I’m the only minority. And I feel like I let a lot of people down.” In the GMA version, Maddy’s reference to being the only minority has been seamlessly edited out. But this theme returns in other clips. “I couldn’t do anything about it. And I feel like I let a lot of people down,” she says. And again: “I feel like I let ’em down. We just couldn’t prove anything.” She feels the anger and the cosmic injustice. But they don’t change her legal judgment.

8. Acquittal is not personal—or national—exoneration. This is what she’s really trying to convey. “Maybe if they would put [out] the law, and a lot of people would read it, they would understand the choices that they gave us,” she says. The tragedy of the case, and the long-standing sense of racial injustice that surrounds it, shouldn’t and didn’t dictate the verdict.

But by the same token, the verdict doesn’t absolve the tragedy or the injustice. “I want Trayvon’s mom to know that I’m hurting,” says Maddy. “And if she thought that nobody cared about her son, I can speak for myself. I do care.” And it’s not just about the Martins. “There’s no way that any mother should feel that pain,” says Maddy. In another clip she adds, “My hope is that we stop walking around looking at color.” Martin’s mother, in a statement responding to Maddy’s interview, says the case “challenges our nation once again to do everything we can to make sure that this never happens to another child.” Amen.

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Just the Facts said...

As plagiarized from Slate:

the verdict doesn’t absolve the tragedy or the injustice... She thinks he’s morally culpable, not legally guilty.

Sounds a lot like getting away with something.


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