Sep 27 2013

No Selves to Defend: A Curriculum for Marissa Alexander Teach-In

There was some good news yesterday… A Florida Appeals Court ruled that Marissa will get a new trial. You can read the Appeals Court’s opinion here. As Alisa Bierria points out, the key section in the ruling is this part:

By including the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” when giving the instruction on the aggravated battery prong of the self-defense instruction, the trial court improperly transmuted the prosecution’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt into a burden on the appellant to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, depriving her of a trial under the correct rule. The defendant’s burden is only to raise a reasonable doubt concerning self-defense. The defendant does not have the burden to prove the victim guilty of the aggression defended against beyond a reasonable doubt. “When a defendant claims self-defense, the State maintains the burden of proving the defendant committed the crime and did not act in self-defense.” Montijo v. State, 61 So. 3d 424, 427 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011). “The burden never shifts to the defendant to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, he must simply present enough evidence to support giving the instruction.”

You can read an article about the ruling here. You can sign a petition for clemency to Governor Scott here. Finally keep up with the campaign to free Marissa here.

On the same day that news broke about a new trial for Marissa, I posted a curriculum for those who want to offer teach-ins about her case and others like it.

From Project NIA (which is my organization):

marissaalexander On the occasion of Marissa Alexander’s 33rd birthday, we hosted a teach-in about her case in the context of others involving women of color who were criminalized for defending from violence.

Even before we facilitated the teach-in we were asked by others if we could share the curriculum and materials with them. A big part of our work at Project NIA is focused on making information readily available in the spirit of collaboration and a desire for a more just world.

As such, we are making the curriculum and materials that were developed by Mariame Kaba freely available. Please feel free to adapt the materials however you choose. We only ask that you make sure to credit Project NIA for the materials as you use them. In addition, please be aware that this curriculum was only offered once and is a work in progress. The feedback was very positive but we would definitely appreciate it if you would share any improvements you make to the curriculum. We would love to keep adding to it and sharing what you develop with others too. We will happily upload your materials here for others to use.



Marissa Alexander Case Study Final

Biderman’s Chart of Coercion (hand this out with the case study above)

The Violence Matrix by Dr. Beth Richie



VAW Prison Historical Timeline

APPENDIX (Additional Information)

You can hand out the following handout during the historical timeline activity to the small groups that might be discussing the cases of Inez Garcia, the New Jersey 7, Joan Little, and CeCe McDonald (in case they don’t have enough background on the cases). CASE STUDIES (Optional)

The following is a handout developed by the Free Marissa Now Campaign with a list of ACTIONS that folks can take to support her.

If you are going to facilitate this teach-in, I suggest that you read this STATEMENT ABOUT MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCING (PDF) and its intersection with domestic violence and racism developed by the Free Marissa Now Campaign. It would also be a good resource for teach-in participants as well.

Facilitators might also want to read the statement of Incite! calling for the freedom of Marissa Alexander. The statement does a terrific job underscoring the social forces that led to her criminalization while also showing how to do intersectional analysis.

The National Coalition against Domestic Violence can also provide facilitators with background information that might be helpful (this is especially true if you don’t have a grounding in the dynamics of DV).

Finally, I encourage facilitators who are new to thinking about the Prison Industrial Complex to read through The PIC Is which is a zine that was developed by us and the Chicago PIC Teaching Collective. It’s a quick read and provides a brief intro to the PIC.

Good luck! If you have any questions, feel free to address them to Mariame at