- On July 13, 2013, a jury returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed a young, unarmed African-American named Trayvon Martin. The prosecutor, Angela Corey, had failed to sufficiently prove her case after charging Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Many of us across the nation were shocked by the verdict, and yet many said that had Corey charged Zimmerman with a lesser charge, the case would likely have ended differently. Even seasoned lawyers like Christopher Darden, Alan Dershowitz, and Dan Abrams agreed that based on the charge, the jury could reach no other conclusion, but that Corey ‘over-charged’ the defendant, based on the evidence she had, and thus George Zimmerman roams the earth a free man today.
- Then there was the case of young Cristian Fernandez. In 2012, Cristian was 12 years old and had already suffered a lifetime of parental neglect. When he was 2, passers-by found him naked, dirty, and alone in a parking lot. When Cristian was 11, his stepfather shot himself in the head after he learned the police planned to arrest him on charges of beating Cristian. Then on March 14th, 2011, Cristian’s mother, Biannela Susana, left Cristian in charge of his 2-year-old half-brother, David. Sometime later, Cristian called his mother to come home, as he said David was hurt. When Biannela arrived home, she found young David unconscious. Yet, instead of calling 911, she spent the next eight hours trolling the internet for symptoms of concussion. Eventually she drove the child to the hospital where two days later he died of his injuries. The mother pled guilty to negligent manslaughter and faces up to 30 years in prison. Young Cristian was arrested and charged by none other than State Prosecutor Angela Corey with one count of first-degree murder. A twelve-year-old child. “She takes the position if a child commits an adult crime, then she’s going to charge him as an adult,” said one lawyer close to the prosecutor. Fortunately, young Cristian’s case caught the public eye and five local law firms working pro bono intervened on Cristian’s behalf, eventually allowing him to plead to manslaughter as a juvenile, which will allow him to be released on his 19th birthday in 2018. If Ms. Corey had her way, he would have been sentenced to life-without-parole. At age twelve. Cristian, by the way, is African-American.
- In July 2010, after Rico Gray saw texts on his wife’s phone, he confronted her in a rage and threatened her. Marissa Alexander, an African-American mother of three, used her gun to fire a warning shot into the ceiling to scare off her husband. Nobody was hit, injured, or killed. Alexander, who had no criminal record, was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison for defending herself. The prosecutor was none other than Angela Corey. Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, said, “I got five baby mammas, and I [hit] every last one of them except for one.” Gray admitted in his deposition there had been “about four or five” incidents of domestic violence with Alexander prior to the shooting incident, including when he “pushed her back and she fell in the bathtub and she hit her head.” He said that she went to the hospital and he went to jail for that. In describing his abuse of another woman he said, “She just wouldn’t shut up.” So he hit her in the mouth. Asked about another woman he had a relationship with, Gray said, “She got hit in the mouth, same thing.” At the time of the incident, Gray admits he had her pinned in the bathroom, was screaming and cursing at her and even threatened to have her killed. Yet, Ms. Alexander was the one sentenced to a 20-year prison term. Alexander was released on January 27, 2015, under a plea deal that capped her sentence to the three years she had already served.
The common thread here is that those prosecuted were all African-Americans, were all well over-charged for their transgressions, and the prosecutor in all cases was Angela Corey, who has earned the distinction of being called the ‘Lock-’Em-Up Prosecutor’ and the ‘ Cruelest Prosecutor in America’.
Corey is reported to have a very thin skin and does not handle criticism well (remind you of anybody else?). When Sandy D’Alemberte, a former president of the American Bar Association, a former president of Florida State University and a well-respected law professor was critical of how Corey handled the Cristian Fernandez case and of her appointment to head up the investigation into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, saying “I can’t imagine a worse choice for a prosecutor,” Corey filed a public records request with FSU seeking all emails, text messages and phone messages involving D’Alemberte related to Fernandez. When Alan M. Derschowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, also criticized Corey’s handling of the Martin case, Corey went into a “40-minute rant, during which she threatened to sue Harvard Law School, to try to get me disbarred by the Bar Association and to file charges against me for libel and slander.” And when David Sutter of the Southern Poverty Law Center said on a local radio program that Fernandez should be in the juvenile system instead of adult court, Corey called the center’s director and launched into a tirade.
Corey’s jurisdiction sends more young people charged as adults to jail than any other one in the state, and her commitment rate of youth to detention centers is twice the state average. She also holds the record of winning the death penalty in a record 24 cases in her eight years in office, giving her the highest per capita death sentence rate in the nation. Duval County is 30 percent black; 80% of those who have received the death penalty are black. A bit of disparity there, don’t you think?
I am pleased to tell you that on Tuesday, Angela Corey lost the Republican primary for 4th circuit judicial state attorney by a large margin (64% to 24%) to Melissa Nelson, a corporate lawyer and former prosecutor. Public opinion seems to be one of relief, especially among the African-American community. The media seems happy. No word yet on any response from Ms. Corey. The result of this primary make me hopeful that I was right way back when I said that at the end of the day, the American voters would exhibit some good sense. Fingers crossed for November.