State Attorney Angela Corey celebrated 34 years as a prosecutor in Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit this week (excepting, of course, the short span when she was fired from the office by her predecessor, Harry Shorstein.) Corey triumphantly returned when she beat Shorstein’s protege, Jay Plotkin, in the 2008 state attorney’s race.
“Ed Austin hired me in 1981, and I still subscribe to the principles he taught me,” Corey said during a discussion of her tenure as the region’s top prosecutor on WJCT’s “First Coast Connect.”
By turns proud, reflective and defensive, Corey stands by her record as she seeks re-election in 2016 against challenger Wes White, dismissing charges she’s overzealous as “false criticism.”
“People just don’t want to recognize what we’re doing. And what we’re doing is working.”
Pointing out that her approach has cut in half the number of juvenile cases opened in the circuit, Corey continues to dispute the accuracy of published reports that North Florida is an outlier when it comes to charging juveniles as adults or lags the rest of the state in offering juveniles civil citations in lieu of charges.
“We have always had to use direct file, grand jury, and certification procedures to put juveniles into the adult system where the juvenile system is not equipped to handle them. We’re operating under statutes, under case law, and we’re doing a good job of only putting those in adult court where juvenile court cannot possibly solve the problem.”
Corey has sought more death penalty convictions than any other prosecutor in the state. In fact, per capita, Duval County is second in the nation for death penalty cases.
That’s been drawing negative national media attention lately, along with criticism of the local Public Defender’s office.
However, for an S.A. who ran on a tough-on-crime platform, the criticism is misplaced, she contends.
“My philosophy on the death penalty hasn’t changed. We SEEK the death penalty, we don’t impose it. It first has to be ratified by a jury, then a judge.
“Northeast Florida has always been considered tough on sentencing, and a leader in sending violent and repeat offenders to prison, as well as putting violent offenders on death row.”
Corey, of course, has also faced withering criticism for her handling of the George Zimmerman, Cristian Fernandez, and Marissa Alexander cases.
The election is still a year away. But the officeholder is in full campaign mode.