Notorious Florida Prosecutor Leads The State In Death Sentences Against Black Men

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rick Wilson

State Attorney Angela Corey

State prosecutor Angela Corey has become notorious in Florida for being “tough on crime,” except when she isn’t. Her unsuccessful prosecution of George Zimmerman for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was blasted for overlooking several key arguments and strategies. But she successfully secured a 20-year prison sentence for Marissa Alexander for firing a warning shot during an altercation with her abusive husband. When that was overturned by an appeals court, she fought Alexander’s release pending trial, and sought three 20-year sentences on retrial. And she has vigorously defended charging juveniles as adults — even coercing teens into plea deals with the threat of charging them as an adult if they do not submit to juvenile detention.

A new report by the Florida Times-Union finds that she has also sent far more defendants to death row than any other Florida prosecutor. Since 2009, Corey has secured 21 death sentences, 14 involving African American defendants. Three escaped execution on appeal, but 18 others remain on death row. This is more than twice the number of death row cases in the next-highest district during the same period, while many have sought the death penalty in not a single case during those years.

And it’s not proportional to the number of murders in Corey’s district. Between 2009 and 2012 (the last year for which statistics were available), Corey’s district was responsible for 32 percent of the death row sentences but just 8 percent of the state’s murders, according to statistics provided to ThinkProgress by the American Civil Liberties Union. Miami-Dade County, for example, saw more than twice as many murders during that period, but that jurisdiction’s district attorney has only put 5 people on death row since 2009.

In fact, one of the counties in Corey’s district — Duval County — is one of ten in the country with the highest death row rate. A report by the Death Penalty Information Center released last fall found that these ten counties — while comprising just two percent of the U.S. population — account for the majority of U.S. executions. The report noted the relationship between arbitrary factors such as what county you live in and imposition of the cruel and increasingly unusual punishment of death. Another arbitrary factor that has tainted death sentences for years is their racial disproportion. In Corey’s district, 66 percent of death row inmates are African American, while they make up just 16 percent of the state’s population, according to ACLU statistics.