When a judge recently denied Marissa Alexander’s request for a Stand Your Ground hearing, for the second time, the die was cast for her retrial. Odds are decent that she may be sent back to jail, even under terms of a plea deal. While the sentence may not be as severe, those who believe she had no business being locked up to begin with, and whose efforts forced the state’s hand once already, are unlikely to take any satisfaction in that. And so the cycle of acrimony will rotate further.
As it stands, the only person capable of breaking this cycle also happens to be the person who would benefit most from doing so. Ms. Alexander’s mistakes have presented Governor Scott with an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership, and also to show off a compassionate side that not enough people get to see in politics. With one stroke of his pen—well, several strokes—Governor Scott can end this controversy for good by pardoning Marissa Alexander.
Scott’s critics would likely denounce it as an election-year stunt, and he should let them do so, because a pardon could well prove decisive in the governor’s race. It is surprising that Charlie Crist has not made this into more of an issue, and Scott should take the initiative to take that option away from him entirely. With Alexander on his side, Scott could potentially take an unprecedented share of the African-American vote from his Democratic challenger. At the same time, it offers some hope of maybe mitigating what are likely to be substantial losses among female voters. If Scott loses in November, it will be largely due to Crist’s support among women, and there is nothing he can do about that—but if he pardoned the state’s most well-known victim of domestic violence, that would be a good start.
Some would argue that such action interferes with the rule of law, but others would argue that it actually reinforces the rule of law. Bear in mind, Ms. Alexander already spent time behind bars on a conviction that was overturned; the governor is entirely within his rights to say the lady has been through enough, and there is nothing to be gained from spending more money prosecuting her. There can be no serious question of the governor’s commitment to law-and-order, and even those who would object to a pardon on those grounds are NOT going to vote for Charlie Crist.
There is a practical side to all this, as well: pardoning Ms. Alexander would eliminate a major distraction, and it would clear out a cloud that would otherwise hang over his second term. If she is imprisoned again, her supporters may believe that the whole game was rigged against her from the start—and that is a case that already carries weight in national media. Ending this case would remove a big source of negative publicity for all of Florida, while generating large amounts of positive hype for himself, and even die-hard opponents would be happy that it’s over.
Rick Scott is arguably the most controversial governor in America, but in this election year he has shown himself repeatedly to be capable of acting counterintuitively in the public interest, and willing to wager political capital to do the right thing. To pardon Marissa Alexander would be the most dramatic example of that yet. Not only would it be the kind of bold, decisive action that voters respond favorably to, it has the added benefit of humanity. He and he alone can decide whether Ms. Alexander will get to watch her children grow up; morally, and politically, does he really have any choice?