Dear State Attorney Angela Corey,
You have had quite the controversial ride since being elected state attorney of Florida in 2008. You have been making headlines almost from the very beginning after firing 10 assistant attorneys, and one-fifth of the overall office staff upon your rise to one of the highest prosecutorial positions in the “Sunshine” state. But at a cursory glance, we see dark spots on your record, one which has been a virtual blood bath when it comes to cases where the defendants are children or minorities.
The Florida Times-Union says in 2010 you reportedly sent 230 juvenile felony cases to adult court, which was more than twice the number sent to adult court in years prior to your arrival. So, is that to say the past State Attorneys were wrong in not trying more kids as adults? Or were you proving that these were cases of felonious kids’ proliferating at twice the rate as in years past?
Forgive me, I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on with the justice system in the state of Florida lately. In 2011, a 12-year-old Hispanic boy named Cristian Fernandez was accused of killing his two-year-old brother. Your office fought to try him as an adult because in Florida any child who commits a violent crime is tried as an adult. Fernandez became one of the youngest people ever to face a murder charge in your state. Later, you said you did not intend for him to stand trial or serve a life sentence. He eventually pled guilty to manslaughter and will serve time in juvenile hall until his 19th birthday. However, he was locked in solitary confinement in an adult prison prior to his court date. This is all because of you.
It is a common practice of Republicans, like yourself, to be hard on crime. While I feel it necessary for authorities to send the right message, your track record as it relates to minorities is absolutely atrocious and smells of an agenda.
Let’s discuss the facts surrounding the George Zimmerman case. February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, was shot and killed by 28 year-old neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who was tried by your office and was eventually acquitted on charges of second degree murder and a lesser charge of manslaughter. The nation was in an uproar because of the case’s obvious racial connotations. Yes, Zimmerman self-identifies himself as a Hispanic male, but is the son of a Venezuelan mother and a German American father who just so happened to be a retired judge in Virginia. Interesting.
Why wasn’t Zimmerman accused of violating Martin’s civil rights by pursuing him simply because he was black? That was clear as day to so many in America of all races.
However, you weren’t alone in your disbelief of the racial element. Judge Debra Nelson, who is a white Democrat appointed by then Republican Governor Jeb Bush, erroneously instructed the mostly white jury to not consider race when it was clearly a catalyst in Zimmerman’s initial pursuit of Trayvon. Strangely, Nelson instead told them it was okay to say Zimmerman profiled Martin.
Your office agreed.
“That is not a racially charged term unless it’s made so, and we do not intend to make it a racially charged term,” prosecutor John Guy. “We don’t intend to say that he was solely profiled because of race.”
If not for race, in what manner could he have possibly been profiled? What the heck does that really mean anyway?
Yes, the judge has the right to instruct the jury. But the fact that your office put up very little fight to have it included in the trial was a missed opportunity that the defense team took full advantage of when cross examining prosecution witness Rachel Jeantel on Trayvon’s use of the term “crazy cracker.”
Denying race as a defining sociological factor when it comes to suspicion of criminal intent is just plain naive. Then in closing arguments, your prosecution team said the young lady was “Not a very sophisticated person.”
Undermining the credibility of your witness, this was a stupid choice of words by prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda. He basically chopped the legs out from under his primary witness right before the jury was ready to deliberate. He even mentioned her Haitian heritage as a reason for her tact.
Angela, race was all over this trial, but the inability of your office to seize upon it in some manner in order get a conviction was dreadful. But who am I, with what you’d likely see as a Rachel Jeantel-like low class public school-based educational background, to question you and all your judicial wisdom?
But your mistakes won’t stop. In 2012, 31-year-old Marissa Alexander was prosecuted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for firing a warning shot, with a weapon she was licensed to carry, to ward off her abusive and estranged husband who was beating her at the time. She had no history of violence, and no arrest record, yet you offered her three years in jail. The mother of two turned down the offer and was successfully convicted by a jury in 12 minutes. She was given the mandatory minimum 20 years. 20 years for defending herself against a man who admitted he was beating her.
What part of the game is this? A clear waste of time and taxpayer dollars. As a result, Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown, Rev. Jesse Jackson and a slew civil rights groups were at your neck for what they say amounted to institutional racism. An appellate court ordered a retrial in 2013 and Alexander is now at home under house arrest after finding that the jury instructions placed the burden of proof on the defense instead of the prosecution, which is where it legally belongs. In this instance the system appears to be trying to correct itself, but none of that would have been necessary had your office not been heavy handed in charging her in the first place.
But your most recent bungling was on display at the Michael Dunn trial, failing again, and letting a 47-year-old middle-aged killer get away with shooting to death a 17-year-old African American teen, because he simply said he was fearful of his life. Despite plenty of circumstantial evidence to the contrary, including prison phone calls, letters and neighbors who say he was racist, your office refused to key in on the race as a motivating factor in Dunn’s decision to draw a firearm and open fire. Race had nothing to do with it? Really? I wonder in what manner did your office screw up the jurors’ instructions in this case. Yes, I know he’s going to jail anyway, but not for murder.
Yes, it does matter.
Knowing your politics are Republican, pardon my presumptive tone, but it would appear to me that your conservative outlooks and affiliations have clouded your judgment regarding race and class in each of the aforementioned cases.
"Those of us in law enforcement are committed to justice for every race, every gender, every person, of any persuasion whatsoever. They are our victims. We only know one category as prosecutors, and that’s a V. It's not a B, it’s not a W, it’s not an H. It’s V, for 'victim'. That’s who we work tirelessly for." These are your words during the Zimmerman trial, Angela.
Maybe you meant it. On second thought, I’m sure you did at the time. With that in mind, I realize I can’t call you the willing tool of a racist criminal justice system poisoned by money from the prison industrial complex. But I can say you’re myopic at best and incompetent at worst. I’m actually leaning more toward the latter.