Political Ironist: Corey’s Defeat is Poetic Retribution

September 3, 2016 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

As a reporter for the international wire service, Agence France Presse, I covered my share of 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Angela Cory headlines that drew international attention. The first was her 2011 prosecution of then 13-year-old Christian Fernandez as an adult on first-degree murder charges for the death of his half-brother. The case galvanized 250,000 people worldwide to sign a petition to protest the charges and produced the infamous Corey quote, “we must protect the community from this young man.” In 2012, she made national and international news again with her prosecution of Marissa Alexander, the mother who fired a gun to scare off an abusive husband (no one was injured in the incident). Corey charged Alexander with aggravated assault, which carried a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. Her prosecution of Alexander spurred online petitions and protests from domestic-violence groups, who argued that Alexander was being overcharged for protecting herself.

These cases, along with her failed attempt to convict George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, kept me busy while thrusting Corey in the international spotlight. That attention also revealed the ugly underside of her administration. Corey’s controversial prosecutorial tactics put hundreds of children in prison and dozens on death row, drawing criticism from legal scholars and practitioners across the country while earning her the charge as the “cruelest prosecutor in America.”

At the end of this year, Corey will no longer wear that ignominious, but well-deserved mantle as Melissa Nelson (ironically, a member of the pro-bono legal team that defended Christian Fernandez and former prosecutor who served under Corey) defeated her in the Republican primary Tuesday.

What is more ironic is that the 4th judicial circuit of Duval, Nassau, and Clay Counties is as conservative law-and-order bastion as to be found in the South. It is the mythical home to Sergeant Joe Friday and Perry Mason. But on this day, citizens had enough of Corey’s merciless approach to administering a blind, one-size-fits-all justice. It is one thing to be tough on crime and exact justice from criminals; weeds have to be extracted from the garden. But it is another to do it not with the reckless swath of a scythe, but with the precision of clippers.
But before anyone thinks that Northeast Florida is growing soft, and will be using 4-ply toilet tissue, it be should be noted that Nelson put together a formidable coalition of supporters from conservative gun-right activists and moderate chamber of commerce Republicans as well as civil and women’s right activists. Such a red/blue coalition shows just how successfully Corey managed to piss off everyone.  
Still, Nelson’s fresh ideas on criminal justice are light yeas ahead of Corey’s rigid, old-line policies.  It is encouraging that voters in such a conservative, Republican district possessed enough discernment and compassion to reject the overcharging, statistics-driven approach to criminal justice that Corey propagated and, instead, embraced the intelligent, nuanced ideas of Nelson. Our community can only be better for it.  

Written by Mike Bernos

Mike Bernos is CEO of Trans-Lucent Consultants. He is an award–winning journalist, having written for among others, ABC News, Agence France Presse, Gannett News, USA Today, Florida Trend and Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of three books and a songwriter whose works appear on Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify. He lives in Riverside.