June 24, 2012 2 Comments
The Florida Times Union published an article today describing the sentiments of some of its state legislators with regard to the 10-20-life statutes. Some of you may have become familiar with these laws because of Marissa Alexander’s case. Florida State Attorney Angela Corey sought this punishment for Marissa after she fired what has been described as a “warning shot” into the wall of the family home. Marissa claimed she did so in self-defense. She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault (with a deadly weapon), convicted, and sentenced to the mandatory penalty of 20 years because she had been charged with domestic battery four months before the incident.
The penalty has been a major point of contention across the state, emphasizing some very problematic aspects of Florida legislation. Marissa’s case is just one example of how these statutes are used, however. Another case has received far less attention, but is perhaps one of the most unjust applications of the law in recent times.
Ronald Thompson is 65 years old. He served his country for 14 years as an Army veteran. He has many chronic health conditions, including diabetes, vision problems, and heart disease. He was charged with four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in 2009 after having fired his gun into the ground to scare off teenagers who were involved in a heated argument with Thompson’s grandmother. He did not injure anyone. It does not appear he was intending to injure anyone. However, the jury convicted him of all counts and he was sentenced to the mandatory penalty of 20 years in prison.
Thompson will die in prison as a result of this if nothing changes – a man who served America for well over a decade.
Guess who we have to thank for the charges? Florida State Attorney Angela Corey. Again. If you ask her why she is doing this to people she will probably say it is because she has a duty to follow the law. Indeed, she does. However, she also has discretion when it comes to when and how she charges people. We have seen this with her handling of Marissa Alexander’s case and the case of 13 year old Cristian Fernandez, who was 12 when charged with felony murder which carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole.
All of this brings me to the point of this article, which is that Florida state legislators recognize the state has unjust legislation. The Florida Times Union polled 14 of the legislators and determined that 11 expressed a willingness to “re-examine the laws for ways to improve them”.
So when will they get around to doing this? Representative Audrey Gibson went so far as to say that failure to re-examine these harmful laws is a “dereliction of duty.” She criticized the task force’s activity (or lack thereof) with regard to the now infamous Stand your Ground legislation.
Representative Mia Jones stated she was against mandatory minimums across the board. This tells me there are representatives who know the legislation is immoral and unethical, but have not yet taken action to change it.
It means they will be amenable to changing or repealing the felony murder rule as well.
Since there is no apparent action to change these laws as of yet, this means we must demand the changes before the laws claim more casualties. You can begin by requesting the elimination of the felony murder rule in Florida. You don’t need to live in Florida to sign the petition either.
You may also write to the Florida state representatives and demand action. Enough is enough. They say they know that change is needed. They say they are willing to re-examine bad law.
Tell them that words are not enough. Words are nothing without action.
Contact Florida’s House Speaker, Dean Cannon, here:
The Honorable Dean Cannon, Speaker
Florida House of Representatives
420 The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Tell representatives Audrey Gibson and Mia Jones to take action to end these unjust laws once and for all.
Email Audrey Gibson: firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on contacting representatives is here.
It only takes a couple of minutes to speak your mind and make a difference. Please do it and encourage others to do the same.