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Florida woman's retrial in 'warning-shot' case delayed over new legislation

By Susan Cooper Eastman

JACKSONVILLE Fla. (Reuters) - The retrial of a Florida woman who had her conviction for shooting at her abusive husband overturned on appeal was postponed on Tuesday to wait for new legislation inspired by the public outcry over her case.

Judge James Daniel postponed until Dec. 1 the retrial of Marissa Alexander, 33, a black woman whose case ignited protests from civil rights groups last year in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for killing black teenager Trayvon Martin.

The judge said he wanted to wait until the dust settled on new legislation that was passed in Florida this spring but is yet to be signed by Governor Rick Scott. The law would make it legal to fire a warning shot under the state's controversial "stand your ground" law.

"We are really ahead of ourselves," Daniel said. "I just don't believe we can try the case until the law is passed, signed by the governor and we examine whether it has retroactive application."

Alexander did not injure anyone but the court gave her a 20-year prison term under the state's mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines because she fired a gun during the alleged assault with two children in the home.

She has said she fired at her abusive husband during a violent argument in 2010. Her husband, Rico Gray, had been convicted of domestic violence. At the time of the shooting, Alexander had a concealed weapons permit as well as an active restraining order against him.

Her case ignited protests from civil rights groups last year when her supporters drew comparisons to the Zimmerman case.

Alexander was convicted in 2012 on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but the conviction was thrown out on appeal in October 2013. She has been out of jail on bond since November.

Her retrial previously was scheduled to start next month.

Under Florida's "stand your ground" law, people who use deadly force to defend themselves - rather than retreating to avoid confrontation - can be immune from prosecution if they have a reasonable fear of serious injury.

But Alexander's self-defense claim was rejected because during the confrontation with her husband she left the house to go to her car and retrieve a gun she later fired once into the kitchen wall near his head.

(Editing by Letitia Stein, David Adams and Jim Loney)

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