By Norm Bond
State Attorney Angela “Tough on Crime” Corey of Jacksonville, will take over the investigation into the shooting death in Sanford of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Corey has a controversial record of, among other things, trying far more juveniles in adult court than her predecessors in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. One of those, 12-year-old Cristian Fernández, is the youngest person ever to be slated for trial for homicide in Jacksonville’s history. If Cristian is convicted at trial Corey will have the distinction of prosecuting the case where the youngest person in America received a life without parole sentence.
It appears Angela Corey has not argued for the rights of youth like Trayvon Martin. To the contrary, her tough-on-crime stance mirrors closely the views of the gun-toting NRA types who pushed through the controversial “stand your ground” law at play in the Trayvon Martin killing.
Several petitions were started to ask for the removal of State Attorney Angela Corey because she misled the public when she said 12-year-old Cristian Fernández would not stand trial and she was not seeking life without parole (life without parole is the mandatory sentence). She also said in the media and to the public she chose not to try Cristian in juvenile court because he would serve less than two years. The Southern Poverty Law Center released a statement countering this claim, explaining that realistically in the juvenile system he would be under the court’s jurisdiction until he was 21. If convicted, Cristian will be the youngest person ever sentenced to life without parole in America. The petition to remove Corey is here.
Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed Corey on Thursday. Originally the case was in the hands of Brevard/Seminole County State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, who had convened a grand jury for April 10. It was the governor and state Attorney General Pam Bondi that asked Wolfinger to step aside in favor of Corey. Wolfinger cited his reason for stepping down from the investigation as arising from a “conflict of interest,” which Corey said is common and can come from a variety of circumstances.
Some legal experts are questioning the need to establish a grand jury prior to arresting George Zimmerman. Attorney Michael Coard of Philadelphia told a radio audience there is enough evidence now for arrest. The grand jury process is in fact secret and anonymous. And the process will lead to information, a report, and possibly charges, but there is no dispute that Zimmerman murdered Trayon Martin. On one of his 911 calls, he utters the racial epithet “fucking coons” prior to shooting the unarmed 17-year old African American whom he outweighed by 100 pounds. There is also no dispute that Zimmerman did not follow the instructions of the police dispatcher, who clearly told him not to follow Trayvon Martin.
But back to Angela Corey. Change.org launched a petition to have 12-year old Cristian Fernandez tried as a juvenile in Florida. The petition grew from 10,000 signatures to over 160,000 in a matter of days. How did this level of interest make Angela Corey feel? “Quite frankly, I resent people who don’t know anything about this case espousing opinions without knowing all of the facts and circumstances,” said Corey. “They’re looking at it as a social issue. But my obligation is clear: I am the chief prosecutor on this circuit and it is my job to enforce the laws that exist on this book. NOT to respond to petitions, and not to try and legislate”.
When NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer pushed the “Stand Your Ground” bill through, it was known as the “shoot first” bill. Is it possible for Corey to crack down on vigilante George Zimmerman even as he claims he was defending himself and sustained injuries? Will Angela Corey be willing to alienate her clinging-to-our-guns core constituency? This remains to be seen.
To voice you concerns to her, reach her office at (904) 630-2400 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell her that you want her to issue something called an information, and take George Zimmerman straight to jail.