Angela Corey is best known as the prosecutor who over charged George Zimmerman and lost what many legal experts say should have been a winnable murder case following the death of Trayvon Martin. It was painful to watch Corey in a series of interviews following Zimmerman’s acquittal as she tried to justify her office’s handling of the case including explaining errors the court said she committed. As a lawyer, I tried to be objective and withhold judgment knowing all to well that there are many subjective things that work against any prosecutor seeking a conviction of a White man accused of killing an African American teen.
While following the Zimmerman case, I also became aware of Corey’s prosecution and efforts to obtain a 60-year prison sentence for Marissa Alexander. Alexander fired a shot in the direction of her abusive husband and his two underage children after he’d beaten her. I joined domestic violence advocates and those of good conscious in expressing outrage over Corey’s over zealous and misguided sentencing recommendation. I couldn’t help but think Alexander was being targeted because she was a Black woman. It now appears that although race may have been a factor in Corey’s handling of the Alexander case, the bigger issue is the Florida’s prosecutor’s antiquated “law and order” approach to her job that is fueling what Harvard law professor and famed Michelle Alexander terms the “new Jim Crow.”
Nation.com called Corey and her practices out in a recent article. The article concludes that Corey has a history of questionable prosecutions and an approach to her job that is troubling, particularly given the recent focus on the privatization of prisons, mass incarceration rates and the treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system. Some of the statistics cited in the Nation.com article are shocking.
The county where Corey serves has the highest incarceration rates in Florida even though overall crime is down in the state. She has resisted efforts to change sentencing for nonviolent crimes and one in four death penalty cases come from her jurisdiction. According to the article, Corey has elected to try hundreds of juveniles as adults. In 2016, she directed 77 juveniles to adult court, 65 of which are African American.
At a time when protestors, pundits and academics are shining a light on the disproportionate use of force by police against African-Americans, it’s easy to gloss over the racially biased and heavy-handed prosecution of African Americans, in this case, teens by prosecutors like Corey. We can not afford to make this mistake. Those of us who are marching, working and even praying for an unbiased criminal justice system must call out prosecutors around this country whose practices perpetuate decades old policies that lead to high incarceration rates of African Americans for nonviolent crimes. We must also work to rid our system of those prosecutors who fail to accept that prosecution of juveniles must focus both on punishment and rehabilitation.
Angela Corey says that she is not to blame for the statistics cited in the Nation.com article. I beg to differ. The buck stops somewhere and in the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, it stops with her.