The Florida prosecutor who drew public scrutiny for her failure to convict neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman lost her bid for re-election Tuesday.
Angela Corey was defeated in a landslide primary election for State Attorney, as GOP newcomer Melissa Nelson swooped in to snag the seasoned attorney’s long-held seat. Corey became infamous for her prosecution in the high-profile cases of Trayvon Martin, Marissa Alexander and 12-year-old Cristian Fernandez.
Each of the cases drew harsh criticisms of the three-term incumbent, so her loss didn’t come as a surprise to many. According to the Florida Times-Union, a poll released after Nelson entered the race for State Attorney showed her with a 10-point lead over Corey. That lead quickly expanded to a whopping 32 points, according to a poll released last week.
Nelson, who is a former corporate attorney, must still beat write-in candidate Kenny Leigh in the general election to secure her spot as the state attorney-elect. Corey’s reign as Florida State Attorney will come to a close the first week of January.
According to the Florida Times-Union, controversy has long followed the seasoned prosecutor. Public criticism of Corey began to grow as she engaged in a political feud with former 4th Judicial Circuit state attorney Harry Shorstein. The paper reports that their feud bubbled up again after the incumbent tried to blame Shorstein and Nelson for dropping the death penalty against a convicted murderer who went on to kill another prison inmate.
Criticism of Corey became more vocal after her botched conviction of Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting of Black teen Trayvon Martin. She often lashed out at those who said she and her legal team over-charged Zimmerman.
“I don’t think that we overcharged,” Corey told CBS News after the trial unraveled. “He killed a young man because he thought he was a criminal and he should be held accountable for what he did.”
She later acknowledged that she and her team second-guessed their ability to prosecute the wanna-be policeman, the New York Daily News reports.
The scrutiny was piled on after Corey moved to sentence Alexander, the woman who fired a warning shot in the air to ward off her abusive husband, to 60 years behind bars. According to Atlanta Black Star, the mother of three was finally freed after serving three years in a Florida prison. She was still required to serve two more years under house arrest, however.
Corey also developed a reputation as one of the cruelest prosecutors in America, as she often tried juveniles as adults and had them locked up for life. This was the case for 12-year-old Fernandez, who prosecutors argued had purposely murdered his 2-year-old brother by ramming his head against a bookcase.
“It’s unclear where those checks and balances were when Corey charged Cristian Fernandez with first-degree murder as an adult and then fought his transfer to a juvenile facility—because, she alleged, he was ‘too dangerous’ to be around other young people,” The Nation reported.
As news of Corey’s defeat spread, many of her critics took to Twitter to express their joy and relief at her exit from office.
#ByeAngela is THE best outcome of yesterday's primaries. Props to all who worked so hard to make it possible.
— ☮ GivePeaceAChance✍🏼 (@NancyCastleman) August 31, 2016
— Lady Ink (@LadyInk_1) August 31, 2016
— Piper Kerman (@Piper) August 31, 2016
Grammy award winning-singer John Legend even joined in to celebrate the controversial prosecutor’s loss, citing her shoddy conviction record.
“Prosecutors possess much of the power to end mass incarceration and to make our criminal justice system smarter and more just,” Legend wrote in a statement to the Florida Times-Union. “With this power should come the responsibility to carry out their duties with balance, wisdom and compassion and without prejudice or bias. They should do so with the goal of bringing healing and safety to the community, rather than merely being as tough as the law will allow.”
“Today the voters in Jacksonville and throughout Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit have decided that Angela Corey failed in that responsibility by aggressively seeking the death penalty and egregiously charging juveniles, particularly those of color, as adults,” he continued. “Her tactics have been rejected by her community, and we applaud the voters for rejecting them. This is a sign of positive things to come in our fight for a #FREEAMERICA.”