ABOVE PHOTO: State Attorney Angela Corey in 2012. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Mack, Pool)
By Jarvis DeBerry
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Angela Corey, the Florida prosecutor who was lackadaisical about prosecuting George Zimmerman and overzealous about prosecuting Marissa Alexander, was tossed out by voters Tuesday. Not only did she lose in the Republican primary for Florida’s 4th circuit judicial state attorney, but she lost big. Her challenger got 64 percent of the vote to Corey’s 26 percent.
Months before Zimmerman was put on trial for killing Trayvon Martin, I spoke to a Florida journalist who said that Corey didn’t have a reputation for fighting for justice for black victims. After Zimmerman was acquitted, an attorney who has worked as a prosecutor and a defense attorney in New Orleans h e was sure that Corey’s office had deliberately tanked the case. Perhaps not murder, but every prosecutor he had spoken to about the case was sure they could have convicted Zimmerman of a lesser charge.
But when there was an outcry for Corey to go easier on a suspect, the prosecutor instead went full throttle. A week after Marissa Alexander gave birth, she fired a gun inside her house in the presence of her abusive husband and two children. She called it a warning shot. Corey called it aggravated assault. Alexander, who had never even been arrested before, was initially convicted and given three concurrent sentences of 20 years. When she won a new trial, Corey promised to make the three sentences consecutive, which would have meant 60 years . Eventually Alexander pleaded and was sentenced to three years, which she had already served.
But it was primarily the prosecuters harshness toward juvenile suspects and her fondness for the death penalty that prompted The Nation magazine to ask in its most recent edition, “ Is Angela Corey the Cruelest Prosecutor in America? “ That story focuses on her decision to charge a 12-year-old with first-degree murder in the death of his 2-year-old brother.
The Nation notes multiple mitigating factors that Corey ignored. The 12-year-old boy had been born to a 12-year-old herself who had been impregnated during a rape. Both mother and child had been in foster care – together. One of the mother’s boyfriends had molested the boy. The boy had watched as his mother’s last boyfriend had shot himself in the head. His life seems to have been invariably traumatic, and, yet, the prosecutor charged him as an adult, which meant he’d be sent to adult prison, and that his trauma would continue.
Melissa Nelson, who defeated Corey in the Republican primary Tuesday, was on the team of lawyers that stepped in and took the 12-year-old murder suspect’s case away from the public defender. That team negotiated a 7-year sentence in what the magazine calls a “juvenile therapeutic facility.”
Elected prosecutors typically enjoy great job security. But Corey is not the first prosecutor to be tossed this year after public outrage of their handling of cases. In March, Cook County, Illinoss state attorney Anita Alvarez was voted out after she waited more than a year to release video of a Chicago police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. That same day, voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, voted out Tim McGinty. The person running for district attorney against McGinty criticized him for the way he handled the case of a Cleveland police officer killing Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old in possession of a pellet gun.
And now Corey gets tossed. The cover of The Nation says that Corey doesn’t understand why people hate her. Thanks to voters she’ll now have time to figure it all out.
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