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Florida woman seeks self-defense hearing after shooting at husband

By Susan Cooper Eastman

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) - Attorneys for a north Florida woman facing trial for allegedly firing a gun at her estranged husband went to court on Friday seeking to have charges dropped against her on self-defense grounds.

Marissa Alexander, 33, was initially convicted in 2012 after firing what the mother of three described as a warning shot into the kitchen wall of her home in Jacksonville, and was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Her conviction was overturned on appeal but prosecutors are seeking a retrial in July.

Alexander said she fired her gun in self defense during a dispute with her husband Rico Gray. Under the state's so-called "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law, a person can use deadly force if they have a reasonable fear of death or serious injury.

The case garnered national attention following the acquittal last year on self-defense grounds of former neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Women's groups rallied around Alexander, arguing she was a battered woman who had defended herself against an abusive husband.

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson visited her in jail and more than 300 demonstrators marched through downtown Jacksonville asking that she be released from jail.

Prosecutors argued on Friday that Alexander's request for a Stand Your Ground hearing should be rejected because she already lost a similar claim before her first trial in 2012. Alexander's attorney Faith Gay said a second Stand Your Ground hearing was merited to present new evidence, including testimony about alleged prior abusive relationships involving Gray.

Judge James Daniel did not issue a ruling at Friday's hearing.

A bill passed by the state legislature last month expands the stand your ground defense to include warning shots, dubbed "Marissa's Law" by her supporters.

Florida Governor Rick Scott hasn't signed the bill yet.

Alexander faces three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the 2010 incident because her husband and his two young sons were in the home when she fired the gun.

After the confrontation began, Alexander fled into the garage to retrieve a gun and returned to the house, pointing it at Gray.

At the prior Stand Your Ground hearing, a judge ruled that if she had truly feared for her life, she would not have returned to the house.

(Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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