Tuesday, November 11, 2014

There Seems to be Very Little Justice in Florida’s “Criminal Justice” Statutes

Marissa Alexander

Lee Wollard (End Left)

Florida continues to give the country and TMZ some of the juiciest crime stories, from Casey Anthony, to Trayvon Martin to Lee Wollard and Marissa Alexander.

Those last two might be a little less well-known, but they shouldn’t be, as the injustices heaped upon them may be Florida’s biggest legal disgrace.

After all any Police Force and any D.A.’s Office could screw up a mother murdering a child. We’re conditioned to look for “reasons”/excuses in such cases, rather than hammer the accused.

And in the Trayvon Martin case, there seems absolutely no doubt that Trayvon Martin assaulted George Zimmerman. NO, perceiving that you’re “being followed” is NOT grounds for self-defense (assault) and yes, private citizens DO have a legal right to follow or watch people exhibiting odd behavior in their neighborhoods.

BUT in the case of Marissa Alexander and Lee Wollard, two people who fired warning shots instead of shooting, in Alexander’s case an abusive husband and in Wollard’s case a homeless teen the family had taken in who was fighting with his teen daughter.

In Alexander’s case, she remains free on bond awaiting a retrial on aggravated assault charges after she fired a warning shot to compel her abusive husband to leave the residence.

In Wollard’s case he has just been convicted and given a mandatory 20-year sentence for aggravated assault for firing a warning shot into a wall to compel a homeless teen the family had taken in to leave the domicile after physically fighting with Wollard’s own teenaged daughter.

Lee Wollard’s nightmare began when the biologist, who used to work at Sea World was taking a nap at his home, but was awakened by his 16-year-old daughter Sarah and her boyfriend fighting.
He and his wife Debbie had taken the 17-year-old in because he was homeless, but the relationship had begun to deteriorate.

When Wollard heard a loud thud, which turned out to be his daughter thrown against a wall, he loaded his .357 and went into the room, firing into the wall to scare the boy off.

“We had tried calling the cops. We had tried doing everything. Nothing worked. Nothing,” Wollard related to the local News.
After the teenager left their property, they thought their dilemma was over, but that turned out to be far from the case, as Lee Wollard was charged with, convicted, then sentenced to 20 years in Florida state prison by Judge Donald Jacobson.

An aggravated assault involving a firearm in Florida comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years. Wollard was offered a plea offer of probation and no jail time but he declined, convinced he was innocent. Wollard related, “It never dawned on me that I would lose, because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I’d protected my family, and I didn’t even hurt anybody. Everything is gone.”

The judge told him that he would not have given him such a lengthy sentence if he hadn’t been obligated to do so.

Earlier this year, federal sentencing guidelines were amended to reduce prison time. And in Florida, the legislature passed a law that exempts firing warning shots from the current harsh penalties.

But that comes too late for Wollard.

“Everything, everything is gone,” he said.

Wollard has asked the Florida Governor for clemency – which, incidentally, his daughter’s former boyfriend supports. If he doesn’t get it, Lee Wollard will leave prison in July 2028, when he is 73 years old.

The SAME fate may await Ms. Alexander, of her appeal doesn’t work out, although in her case a national network of Civil Rights and Women’s groups are working on her behalf, so the injustice in her case has a better than even chance of being overturned.

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