This week, one of the deadliest prosecutors in the country accused a murder victim’s mother of not grieving appropriately. State Attorney Angela Corey of Jacksonville, Florida took to the airwaves to say the mother, who opposes the death penalty for her child’s killer, is “more interested in publicity than actually grieving for her daughter.”
As early as February, Darlene Farah of Jacksonville has pushed for a life sentence instead of death for James Rhodes, a 24-year-old black man who murdered her daughter. Farah’s fought Corey tooth and nail to keep Rhodes alive, and asked lawmakers to require a unanimous jury decision before carrying out an execution. But according to the state attorney, Farah is doing all of this out of self-interest.
“It is a constitutional duty to consult with the victim, but the victim does not tell the state attorney what sentence should be imposed in any case,” Corey told 104.5 WOKV. “We give their feelings great weight, and we have done that with the very vocal Darlene Farah, who appears to be more interested in publicity than actually grieving for her daughter.”
Rhodes has yet to be sentenced because of a temporary halt on death penalty sentences that went to effect in the beginning of the year. In January, the Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s death penalty law was unconstitutional because judges were allowed to overrule juries to sentence a defendant to death. Several more states’ death penalty laws have since been challenged or struck down in response to that ruling.
Corey’s accusation comes six months after her office tried to manipulate Farah’s teenage son, Caleb, into supporting Rhodes’ execution. To drive a wedge between Caleb and his mother, one of Corey’s prosecutors showed him footage of his sister’s murder. The teenager temporarily supported the death penalty upon seeing the video, but he ultimately changed his mind and gave his support for a life sentence.
“If there were a victim’s family out being as vocal and publicity-seeking as Darlene Farah has been on this case demanding that I seek the death penalty in a case where it were inappropriate, I would not do that,” Corey told WOKV. “Likewise, the fact that she is out vocally and publicly, very publicly, continued to demand that I do not seek the death penalty in this case, I am saying that I will still do my job and follow the law in the state of Florida.”
She added that other victims are “quietly waiting for justice to take its course.”
Farah responded with disgust. “How can you say something like that? I’ve been back and forth before I even went public with me not wanting the death penalty for about a year and a half,” Farah told WOKV. “It’s not about the publicity, it’s about what’s in the best interest for my children.”
Jacksonville is housed in Duval County, one of the deadliest places in the country for people convicted of murder. Between 2010 and 2015, 16 people there were sentenced to capital punishment, making Duval one of less than 20 counties that handed out more than five death sentences from 2010 to 2015. Between 2009 and 2014, 21 people were sentenced to die — 14 of whom were black.
As the district’s state attorney, Corey is the primary advocate for those sentences, making her one of the deadliest prosecutors in the country. She is now up for re-election, and according to local polls, is expected to lose by a landslide.