Tag Archives: angela corey

The Michael Dunn Retrial is Underway

Michael Dunn mug shot

Michael Dunn mug shot

Dunn was previously convicted of several counts of attempted murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle. The first jury hung on the First Degree Murder count, and jury selection for the retrial has begun today. He is claiming justifiable use of force (self defense). His attorneys attempted to move the case due to the local publicity, but the judge declined to do so. He faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the final charge. He already faces a mandatory 60 years combined on the charges fro which he has been convicted, but not yet sentenced, which makes the cost of a retrial seem to be not very cost effective. Keep in mind the first trial cost nearly $100,ooo!

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/22/us/florida-loud-music-trial/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

When Can Juveniles Be Tried as Adults in Florida?

Recently, Crimcourts covered the 9-month-old in Pakistan charged with attempted murder. That got me thinking about the rules in Florida, and how old someone has to be to be tried as an adult, as there have been some high-profile cases of young people being tried as adults. For certain serious offenses, there is no minimum age for children to be tried as adults in Florida. According to a juvenile sentencing report by the University of Texas, there are examples of 11-year-olds being charged as adults, and that theoretically a 7-year-old accused of murder could stand trial as an adult. For less serious offenses, children over age 16 can be charged as adults at the discretion of the prosecutor, even for misdemeanors if they have priors.

Christian Fernandez

Christian Fernandez

Florida was recently in the news for the case of Christian Fernandez, a 12-year-old charged as an adult in Jacksonville, who faced mandatory life in prison without parole if convicted at trial. Ultimately, Fernandez plead to a deal that allowed for him to be sentenced as a juvenile, and he will remain incarcerated until he turns 19. That’s the most recent of a history of aggressive prosecutions of juveniles.

Lionel Tate at 14

Lionel Tate at 14

Florida made news several years ago when Lionel Tate, who was also 12 at the time of his offense, lost at trial and was sentenced to life in prison. He was the youngest person in America to have been sentenced to life without parole, until his sentence was overturned on appeal. He then entered a plea deal that spared life in prison, and he ultimately violated his probation by committing a robbery. Tate’s case also garnered attention because he was convicted of felony murder, which means that he did not have to intend the death of the playmate he killed. It was a first degree felony murder because it occurred in the commission of child abuse, despite the fact that Tate was only 12, himself.

There has been a growing effort in Florida to amend the way juveniles are handled in relation to adult court. Currently, Florida prosecutors are given great power in that they have unquestioned discretion to “direct file”, that is to charge a juvenile in adult court. It most instances, the decision cannot be reviewed by a judge, or appealed. The Florida Times-Union did a fascinating examination of how prosecutors gained this power during a reactionary period 20 years ago when there were several high-profile attacks on tourists. This unfettered discretion could lead to abuses if State Attorneys use it unfairly.

The Florida Bar has a committee advocating for the Legal Needs of Children, who are pushing the recommendations from 12 years ago against the direct filing of juveniles. The committee has been advocating changes for years. The committee’s position was recently adopted by the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors as an official legislative position of the Florida Bar. This isn’t a minority advocacy group, or even a Defense oriented group, this is the position of the Florida Bar as a whole.

State Attorney Angela Corey

State Attorney Angela Corey

Rob Mason, an assistant public defender in the 4th circuit, and director of that office’s juvenile division, says that the State does use their power to unfairly coerce pleas from juveniles in his circuit. Angela Corey, who has raised red flags around here before, is the State Attorney there, in the circuit including Jacksonville. Mason’s allegations about her practices seem to be borne out in the record. He says that about 80% of the direct commitments handled by his office are threatened with being charged as adults, which entices a quick plea to avoid potentially longer sentences for those juveniles. Moreover, the Florida Times-Union reports more than 1400 direct commitments over the last four years. In contrast, there were only 34 during the same period Miami’s district, in spite of having about twice as many juveniles as Jacksonville’s. Further, 29 percent of the direct commitments in Jacksonville stem from misdemeanor cases. Those kids are likely receiving harsher sentences as juveniles that comparable adult offenders. It was Angela Corey’s office that filed Christian Ferndandez’s case in adult court, before relenting.

The great power afforded to prosecutors in Florida is unnecessary. It would not be a great burden to use judicial review for the appropriateness of such decisions. The majority of state attorneys probably do not abuse the discretion, but the numbers suggest that even one can negatively affect thousands of children. Judicial review would put a check in the system to ward off abuses, and still allow prosecutors to push for adult prosecution where it was appropriate: not just whenever it is convenient or advantageous to coerce a plea deal. That’s why the Florida’s Bar’s Legislative committee will now advocate for such a change.

A Twist in the Marissa Alexander Case

I haven’t been able to cover the Marissa Alexander case much on this blog. For those unfamiliar, Ms. Alexander was convicted and sentenced to 20 years for Aggravated Assault for firing what she claimed was a warning shot in the vicinity of her estranged husband, as well as two of his children. It has drawn comparisons to the Zimmerman case, as self-defense was claimed. Factually, it differed because the testimony was that she went out to the garage to retrieve the gun, before returning and firing it. Her conviction was overturned on appeal for an error in the jury instruction.

Marissa Alexander

Marissa Alexander

A group of Jacksonville pastors are encouraging the State to reopen their original offer, which was for 3 years in prison. Ms. Alexander would not have to serve much more time, thanks to the credit for time she has already served. She had initially rejected the offer, choosing to go to trial on her justified use of force defense. This new push is interesting, as it differs from many outside pundits claiming that she should not have been charged at all. This middle ground suggests that she would be punished for resorting to gun play (which was not found to be justified by the jury at the first trial), but would allow for a much more reasonable punishment than the 20 years mandated by Florida’s 10-20-Life Law. Under recent legal developments, the court must impose each 20 year sentence consecutively, so if she is convicted again of three counts, the court will be obligated to sentence her to 60 years.

The Florida legislature is currently considering a “warning-shot” bill that would be an exception to 10-20-Life, but even if it passes, it may be too late for Alexander. Her trial is set for late July, and she is expected to again argue self-defense / justifiable use of force. The Florida Supreme Court may take up the issue to determine whether the legislature intended to mandate consecutive sentences.

This case is a better example of the unjust sentences that can occur with non-discretionary sentencing than it is an exemplar of Stand Your Ground. The judge found that Stand Your Ground did not apply due to the fact that she returned to the confrontation. Still, outside of prosecutor Angela Corey’s office, it would be hard to demonstrate that 60 years in prison, essentially a life sentence, would be just under the circumstances. Ms. Alexander was in an abusive relationship, had no prior criminal history, and nobody was physically harmed when she discharged the firearm. Ms. Corey’s office has chosen to proceed with the greatest level of charges, and if successful, will mandate 60 years, even if the judge does not want to do it, and regardless of any mitigating circumstances. For that reason, California has been reexamining its notorious three strikes law, in an attempt to prevent costly, unjust sentences.

No Verdict Yet for Michael Dunn

The jury is still out in the ‘loud music shooting’ case. They will continue to deliberate, starting today at 9:00 a.m. in addition to the 1st degree murder charge, there are several lesser offenses and attempted murder charges for the other boys in the truck. The first degree murder charge is probably a reach, any premeditation was minimal at best. If the prosecutor tries to oversell the case, they lose credibility on the lesser charges. That may help Dunn’s attorney on his self-defense claim. This is the same prosecutor that overcharged on the George Zimmerman.
Un fortunately, I wil be out of town this weekend, so I may not get to comment right away when the verdict comes in.

Michael Dunn’s Murder Trial is Under Way

Accused killer Michael Dunn mug shot

Accused killer Michael Dunn mug shot

After three days of jury selection, opening statements were today in the first degree murder trial of Michael Dunn. It’s being referred to as the Loud Music Murder, as Dunn’s complaint about loud music being played by the alleged victim, 17-year-old Jordan Davis, and his friends precipitated the congrontation. What happened next is up for debate, and how much proof the state can provide regarding the next moments will decide the case. The state says Dunn became incensed from the disagreement about the bass, and intentionally shot at the car with the young men. Dunn claims that he was afraid for his life, thought he saw a weapon, and was justified in firing to protect himself.

It sounds like there are some inconsistencies in the witnesses’ different telling of events, which is a hurdle for the state to overcome. No weapon was ever found, which hurts the Defendant’s story. It should be noted that there would have been time for the young men to have disposed of a weapon, or that Dunn could have been afraid for his life if he thought there was a firearm. Still, without a gun, it will be hard for the defense to convince a jury that Dunn was justified in shooting the young man. Also, he drove several miles to his hotel, and never contacted police.

The story has gained national attention due to the similarities to the George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin case. As in Zimmerman’s defense, a white man shot and killed a young black man. It happened in the same region of Florida, and this case is being handled by prosecutor Angela Corey,

State Attorney Angela Corey

State Attorney Angela Corey

who oversaw the prosecution of Zimmerman. This is also a self-defense case, and no motion to dismiss has been filed under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. That’s the Stand Your Ground Motion that people often think of, though Zimmerman’s defense did not argue it, either. Dunn will be helped by the law, because another provision removed the ‘duty to retreat’ requirement. If Dunn was in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm, he is allowed to use deadly force. He does not have to try to get away under Florida law. It will be up to the jury to determine whether his stated fear was reasonable.

More details on the case can be found on our earlier post, or click the Michael Dunn tag for the full Crimcourts treatment.

The Zimmerman Prosecution Cost Almost $1,000,000

The estimation released yesterday by the Orlando Sun Sentinel puts the number at over $900,000, but that doesn’t include costs incurred by Special Prosecutor Angela’s Corey’s office. An advance to her office as already tallied $80,000. Nor does that number include pretrial costs, which must have been substantial. I anticipate the final tally of your tax dollars will come in north of a million dollars. Nor does this include money Zimmerman had to outlay in his defense, much of that raised by donations.

Aside

The National Review has taken a shot at Angela Corey. This opinion piece ran today online, detailing more of her past transgressions. The gall to call Harvard to try to get Alan Dershowitz fired is pretty spectacular. The fact that … Continue reading