My Cousin’s Last Thoughts…Before Dying? “I Will Stand My GROUND…?” Was that one of them? Was that what she did (protect herself and her child)? In my mind, I believe she probably tried to do just that. But he was too powerful. Much bigger than she.
The thing is, she’d done all the right things, too; like gotten a protective order especially after the last incident with him…when he’d pistol whipped her. The time before he’d beaten her so until one eye had remained swollen shut for several weeks; and there had been countless “before” times that as well, like the day she’d been beaten so badly she could barely walk or talk. So enough was enough. Everyone wanted the abuse to stop before it was too late. The problem was, it was already much too late. No one wanted to see it, but the signs were there, blaringly brutal and in plain sight with every public bruise he’d put on her body. He was in that If I can’t have you, then nobody can mode. And he meant it.
I also often wonder about the last Happy moments of my younger cousin’s life. Not the terror filled ones. I think I would have gone insane if I only thought about the bad stuff. We were a year apart in age, different as night and day, but she was like a best friend. I loved her dearly. She had been such a happy-go-lucky-person, the one with a ready smile for strangers, singing off key at church, and picking up stray cats. She loved cats. Only 19-years old then, she had her whole life in front of her. So, I wonder what were her thoughts that day—that hour—those minutes…the ones before she lay bleeding to death after being stabbed repeatedly by her ex-boyfriend. We…she…everyone thought she was safe after being hidden away from him for over six months. But he was patient…very patient, and like any predator somehow managed to find her, probably by stalking our family. Waiting for the opportunity, he kicked in the door one day and right there in front of their small child, he sliced into my cousin so many times he almost decapitated her.
Getting that call is still a vivid sound in my mind; the tone of my mother’s voice…the one when you know something is dreadfully wrong. I remember dropping the phone and to this day I can still hear my own voice screaming in denial. Honestly, without a doubt, I had never known such hatred for another human being as I did for him, who I refer to as the destroyer. Afterwards, and for many years I also felt a tremendous amount of guilt, like her death was also my fault, too. I thought, if only I had asked her to move in with me it wouldn’t have happened because I lived several thousand miles away from that area. Over the years, and with therapy, however, I’ve realized that my cousin’s death was one person’s fault alone. Further, when dealing with madmen, I also know they will take out entire families in order to achieve their end result.
It’s been 27-years that something ugly shortened the life of such a beautiful and promising light. Incredibly, the destroyer only served about 8-years in prison. Reportedly, he never left the scene of the killing, nor did he hurt their child. In fact he was found nearby and wrapped in a blanket still holding the bloodied weapon. I realized then that unholy monsters stalk quietly amongst us, preying on our children & loved ones. Moreover, oftentimes, they use a system of justice that appears totally unjust to hide their actions. When (IF) this happens, hold fast to your Faith–convictions, beliefs; do not dishonor love by becoming the same unholy and unjust monsters!
I’ve come to peace with my cousin’s last thoughts by envisioning her smile. That’s how I think of her, the happy person she was in life. In addition, I try to let her life be an inspiration for helping me to stand up and be a voice for the powerless.
This takes me to the case of Marissa Alexander. It’s a story of a woman that had so much going for her life. In 2010, this mother of three held a graduate degree, owned a home and had no criminal background. The only problem was that she was married to a man that decided If he couldn’t have her NO ONE could. His abuse was well documented. She had a restraining order. Incredibly, for the State of Florida protecting herself from such a man was not a good enough reason to use the Stand Your Ground law when by his own testimony he came after her and she shot in the air to warn him off. After 2-hours of jury deliberation, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20-years in prison for not taking a plea deal. Below is a short synapsis of her story written by Katie Halper of Salon.com.
“On Aug. 1, 2010, Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of three, with a master’s degree and no criminal record, was working for a payroll software company in Jacksonville. She was estranged from her abusive husband, Rico Gray, and had a restraining order against him. Thinking he was not at home, she went to their former house to get some belongings. The two got into an argument. Alexander says that Gray threatened her and she feared for her life. Gray corroborates Alexander’s story: “I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and … I told her … if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you,” he said, in a deposition. When Alexander retreated into the bathroom, Gray tried to break the door. She ran into the garage, but couldn’t leave because it was locked. She came back, he said, with a registered gun, which she legally owned, and yelled at him to leave. Gray recalls, “I told her … I ain’t going nowhere, and so I started walking toward her … I was cursing and all that … and she shot in the air.” Even Gray understands why Alexander fired the warning shot: “If my kids wouldn’t have been there, I probably would have put my hand on her. Probably hit her. I got five baby mommas and I put my hands on every last one of them, except for one … I honestly think she just didn’t want me to put my hands on her anymore so she did what she feel like she have to do to make sure she wouldn’t get hurt, you know. You know, she did what she had to do.” And Gray admits Alexander was acting in self-defense, intending to scare and stop but not harm him: “The gun was never actually pointed at me … The fact is, you know … she never been violent toward me. I was always the one starting it.” Ultimately nobody was hurt. Nobody died. On May 12, 2012, it took a jury 12 minutes to find Alexander guilty of aggravated assault. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.”
In a way, reading this story was like reliving the injustice of my cousin’s death all over again. However, I also felt empowered by it as well because I believe it’s important to get stories and information like this out to the public and make real change happen.
Interestingly, the Judge in the Marissa Alexander case cited that the “system” tied its hands and disallowed discretion. After reading & comparing the Stand Your Ground cases in FL this year, I’d like to ask the Judge on which PLANET of Florida was that?
Update: Due to the diligent work of her attorneys and the support of advocates for her release including millions of petitions (I took part in as well), Marissa. Alexander was released on bond on November 28, 2013. Apparently, the release is to the ire & dismay of the Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, who filed a bogus motion to revoke the bond even after all of Ms. Alexander’s permissions had been granted by her probation officer in writing for every infraction Ms. Corey accused her of, which included things like: renewing her driver’s license, going to the bank, going to get clothes…..Hmm, does everyone on Ms. Corey’s list get such SPECIAL attention???? Me thinks not!!