FLORIDA, July 24, 2013 — Since the not guilty verdict was delivered in George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder, and last-minute manslaughter, trial, no small measure of attention has been directed at the prosecutorial tactics of Angela Corey.
Veteran attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has been a driving force behind much of this.
“I think there were violations of civil rights and civil liberties — by the prosecutor,” he said in a recent interview with Newsmax. “The prosecutor sent this case to a judge, and willfully, deliberately, and in my view criminally withheld exculpatory evidence.”
“They denied the judge the right to see pictures that showed Zimmerman with his nose broken and his head bashed in,” he explained. “The prosecution should be investigated for civil rights violations, and civil liberty violations.”
Later, Dershowitz stated that Corey “possess(ed) photographs that would definitely show a judge that this was not an appropriate case for second-degree murder. She deliberately withheld and suppressed those photographs, refused to show them to the judge, got the judge to rule erroneously this was a second-degree murder case.
“That violated a whole range of ethical, professional, and legal obligations that prosecutors have. Moreover, they withheld other evidence in the course of the pretrial and trial proceedings, as has been documented by the defense team.”
Few people know Corey’s legal methodology better than Harry Shorstein. The longtime state attorney for Metro Jacksonville, he fired her back in 2007 due to workplace-related behavioral issues.
Shorstein spoke about this and much more during an interview published yesterday.
Today, Corey’s controversies from a time before George Zimmerman became a household name enter consideration. In 2011, 12-year-old Cristian Fernandez fatally shoved his brother, who was a toddler. Rather than bring about a more conventional charge, Corey decided to prosecute Fernandez for first-degree murder as an adult.
“This case again brought international disgrace and condemnation to her and our jurisdiction,” Shorstein says. “Cristian was an abused 12 year old who was born to a 12 year old Mother. His father committed suicide in his presence. Corey proudly announced she had indicted the youngest ever here.
“She charged first degree murder punishable only by life with no parole. She had said she never wanted a long prison sentence. During plea negotiations she added another charge punishable by life. Later she said she never believed it was premeditated, though that is what was charged (read indictment). Ultimately the defense team pled to juvenile sanctions and probation on the added charge.
“The defense team comprised of outstanding lawyers working pro bono and even paying substantial amounts for experts did, I think, what we do every day here. They pled to very reduced charges to avoid any possibility he could be sent to prison for life.
“Lastly, when he was originally charged as an adult, Cristian was moved to the adult jail and kept in isolation. She objected to him being let out of isolation but the Chief Judge ruled against her. Had he not ruled for the defense it could irreparably damaged the child.”
Another case is that of Marissa Alexander. When confronted by her abusive husband, she left the room to retrieve a firearm for which she was licensed to carry. Alexander then returned to her husband and fired a warning shot in the presence of his two children.
Nobody was harmed, but Corey prosecuted her harshly nonetheless. After Alexander refused to accept a plea bargain which would have resulted in three years’ incarceration, she stood trial with the now-infamous “Stand Your Ground” defense.
Alexander was found guilty and sentenced to twenty years in prison.
“The legislature has passed draconian sanctions for all gun crimes, appropriate in many cases but clearly wrong in this case,” Shorstein remarks.
As bad as all of this is, Corey’s bail bonds policies bring things to an entirely different dimension.
She argues for very high bonds, resulting in our jail being overcrowded with poor people,” Shorstein explains. “What usually happens in the indigent being allowed to plead to something in return for being allowed to be released.
“The judge actually sets the bond, however, the judge knows little or nothing about the case at the time bond is set, relying on the prosecutor.”
In the unfortunate situation of Ben Kruidbos, Robert Zimmerman — George’s younger brother and strong public supporter — has much to say. Until earlier this year, Kruidbos was the information technology director in Corey’s office. He was allegedly fired because he revealed her team’s unlawful evidence-sharing tactics during one of George’s pre-trial hearings.
“Mrs. Corey has lashed out against her critics in the past. She did so to Professor Dershowitz, she did so to Harvard, and now it seems that Mr. Kruidbos, out of fear for his own future, did what he perceived to be the right thing, and I fear this might just be some kind of retaliation.”
The Kruidbos firing strikes to the core of the following question: Did she actually break the law while prosecuting George? Her team neglected to hand over very important evidence to his defense, so the question does seem none too difficult.
Robert thinks that the matter is “worth a look. I think that either the Justice Department or, eventually, a special prosecutor appointed by the Governor should look into these matters. I know that the court decided to wait post-trial to conduct a judicial inquiry to determine if there was in fact criminal contempt as it relates to withholding evidence.
“Every defendant has the right to confront the evidence against them, and any suppression by a prosecutor, or prosecutors, of evidence may be unlawful and most certainly is inappropriate.”
Whether or not Corey will ultimately be forced to resign remains unclear. Shorstein provides some information about the matter: “Only public opinion would force her to resign. The Governor can remove her but it is almost unheard of. The best chance is a recall. Which is very difficult.”
It is certain, though, that if voters elected Corey as state attorney for their judicial circuit, then they can and should hold her accountable for her actions. A recall definitely would be fantastic.
The seemingly absolute level of power which she wields over her office could stand some sunshine.
Far-left? Far-right? Get real: Read more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto
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