The opening narration to “Law & Order” reminds Americans that our criminal justice system has two separate but equally important parts: We expect the cops to catch criminals and then we elect state attorneys to prosecute them.
We depend on state attorneys to represent the judicial desires of the voters no matter their color, class, gender or party affiliation. So when the government fails — when sheer unadulterated incompetence leads to one part of the criminal justice system consistently not being up to the task — it’s time for a change.
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey and her office failed Jordan Davis, his family, and the people of Florida by failing to get a murder conviction in the Michael Dunn trial. After going 0-2 in the two biggest cases of her career (Dunn and George Zimmerman), it’s time for Floridians to get better legal representation.
On Saturday, a day before what would have been Davis’ 19th birthday, a jury in Jacksonville, Florida came back with a verdict in the Dunn trial: Guilty on three counts of attempted murder, one count of shooting into an occupied vehicle, and they couldn’t decide on the counts of first and second-degree murder.
To many court observers, the Dunn trial was the “un-losable” case. No matter the race of the jury, or the media surrounding the case, convicting a man who shot into a car of teenagers because he thought their music was too loud seemed like a slam dunk. Once Dunn’s fiancée clearly contradicted his statements on the stand, coupled with the overwhelming direct evidence against him, this case should have been a no brainer for Corey and her team. Yet they still failed to get a conviction on their main charge of murder.
The reality is that race definitely played a role in the jury’s verdict. There is significant research in political science and sociology that shows the racial makeup of a jury has an impact on the final outcome of the trial. No attorney can perform miracles, and in the wake of the Zimmerman ruling, we know that states with Stand Your Ground laws — even when not invoked by the defense — are less likely to result in convictions against those who kill black men and women.
However, any competent prosecutor is expected to account for these factors and still get convictions.
In Corey’s case, the strategies for success seem to elude her and her staff. While Corey has established a reputation over the years for being a tough prosecutor, that reputation has come at the expense of the under-privileged and the poorly represented. Charging 12-year-olds as adults and putting Marissa Alexander away for 20 years for firing warning shots doesn’t make for an impressive resume.
But Corey’s mediocrity as a State Attorney runs even deeper than Zimmerman and Dunn. According to AVVO.com, an independent site ranking lawyer quality across the United States, Corey scores a paltry 6.7 out of 10. Compare this to the two defense attorneys who represented Zimmerman, Mark O’Mara (10.0) and Don West (10.0), Dunn’s defense attorney Cory Strolla (6.9), and even Casey Anthony’s prosecutor Jeff Ashton (7.3), and the picture becomes even clearer.
Corey has failed twice, and no one should have confidence that she could win a retrial against a ham sandwich, let alone a competent defense attorney.
If you elect a politician to build a bridge and clean up the streets, and they only get half of the job done, they should be booted out of office in the next election. Corey has established a reputation for cleaning up the streets, but failing miserably in the tough cases that require real courtroom skill and strategy.
Corey won the Republican primary for State Attorney in 2012 and went on to win her seat by running un-opposed in the general election. Every voter in her district should think long and hard about whether they’d want Corey representing their loved ones in a high-profile court case that requires more than smiling press conferences and post-loss platitudes.
Come 2016, there should be a long line of challengers to her position.
No single court case can stop racism or ignorance among a jury, but we elect public officials to do a job. When they fail at that job — not once, but twice — and have a mediocre track record that doesn’t suggest future improvements, it’s time for a change.
While the Davis family won’t be able to move on from Corey’s legal incompetence, the citizens of Florida have the chance to move on from her brand of bungling courtroom antics. If not for Davis then for the next victim who needs the best representation that tax money and a competent elected official should provide.
This article originally appeared online at Headline News.