Angela Corey, the Jacksonville, Florida state attorney who notoriously pursued a 20-year sentence for Marissa Alexander for firing a warning shot in self-defense, was defeated in her primary for re-election last night.
In addition to trying to throw a domestic violence survivor in prison for two decades (even though no one was hurt in the shooting), Corey also earned notoriety for her handling of the prosecution of George Zimmerman.
A recent Nation article that asked, “Is Angela Corey the Cruelest Prosecutor in America” also documents many of Corey’s less high-profile abuses. “The woman who failed to convict Trayvon Martin’s killer is putting hundreds of kids in prison, and dozens of people on death row,” they wrote.
Even as conservatives and liberals have begun to forge a tentative consensus that America’s criminal justice system needs massive overhaul, over-zealous prosecutors like Corey have continued practices that over-crowd jails, throw kids in prison for life, and sustain the death penalty. Duval County, part of Corey’s jurisdiction, is one of the few counties that hasn’t seen a decrease in death sentences.
Corey did not seem overly chastened by her defeat.
“I will figure out what it was about our stellar record that I was not able to communicate to the voters,” she said in a concession speech, according to WOKV-TV. “And once I figure that out, I will sit down and let you all know what I could have done better. But I know one thing that will never waiver. And that’s my love and devotion to the people of this community and to all of you.”
But this result might signal a promising new direction.
“The era of tough-on-crime rhetoric is coming to a close as voters realize that overzealous prosecutors have abused their power for too long,” says Northwestern Law Professor law professor Daniel Medwed. “Voters are ready for a state’s attorney who will focus on long-term solutions, rather than short-sighted policies that make them sound tough, but don’t result in equitable or sustainable results. This could be a sea change and might mean that prosecutors might become more accountable to the public.”
In recent years, other overly zealous prosecutors have been rejected by voters, including Anita Alvarez, the Cook County, Illinois state’s attorney who regularly pursued life without parole sentences for kids. Dale Cox, who served as interim Caddo, Louisiana DA, and once said that revenge brought him visceral satisfaction, was defeated by the more progressive Judge James Stewart. “I think we need to kill more people,” he once said, according to the Fair Punishment Project.
“As a guy who spent 23 years in Angola, as inmate paralegal for hundreds of guys sentenced by a harsh, mean system, the election of Judge Stewart in Caddo Parish was an instance of hope for a more just justice system in Louisiana,” said former prisoner Calvin Duncan.