Florida State Attorney Angela Corey has lost her reelection bid, making her the first incumbent state attorney in modern history to lose a contested election, according to The Florida Times Union. Corey was the attorney who failed to convict George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin. Corey also brought aggravated assault charges against Marissa Alexander for the victimless crime of firing a warning shot into the air to ward off her abusive husband.
Beyond these two high profile cases, Corey is known for her role in imprisoning children and her frequent use of the death penalty. An article in The Nation investigates Corey’s work on juvenile cases, where her office frequently threatened to try children as adults in order to get defendants to plead the maximum juvenile charge. The Fourth Circuit under Corey sent 75% of juveniles to adult jail or prison, more than any other jurisdiction in Florida.
In 2010, Duval County, the largest county in Corey’s circuit has the highest incarceration rate in Florida. Death sentences in Duval account for one fourth of all death sentences issued in Florida, although the county has less than 5% of the population.
Clearly, the end of Corey’s reign of terror as state attorney is worth celebrating. Many took to social media last night to celebrate. Yet, what do we know about her challenger, Melissa Nelson?
Nelson is also a Republican, and a former prosecutor and civil attorney. In her campaign, she accused Corey of lacking integrity and not being tough on crime. She brands herself as a strong “constitutional conservative,” earned the endorsement of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and has spoken out against the charges Corey brought against Alexander for her use of a gun.
Nelson previously worked under Corey in the Fourth Circuit before joining an international law firm. She defended Florida State University when a woman claimed that Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston raped her in a lawsuit filed against the school.
While many are rightly relieved to have Corey out of office, those committed to justice must remain vigilant lest old practices in the Fourth Circuit remain under Nelson. Hopefully, Nelson will follow advocacy trends in criminal justice by reducing or ending death sentences, end trying minors as adults, and push against racist practices in criminal justice. The Fourth Circuit has suffered enough under Corey’s leadership.
Photo Credits: Orlando Sentinel