Trayvon Martin Prosecutor Accused of Overcharging and Being Party To “Institutional Racism”

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Angela Corey has become a minor legal celebrity for her tough-minded prosecution of the Trayvon Martin murder case.  Her toughness has also drawn the ire of U.S. House member Corrine Brown in a racially charged case in Jacksonville. The case involves Marissa Alexander who was charged under Florida’s “10-20-life” law which mandates progressively tough penalties for violent felonies when firearms are involved.

Saying he had no choice, Judge James Daniel sentenced the mother of an 11-year-old to 20 years in prison after a jury convicted her of  aggravated assault for firing a warning shot to discourage her estranged husband from choking her. In a cruel irony another judge had rejected Alexander’s invocation of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, ruling she wasn’t in fear for her safety when she returned to her house to get the car keys she had forgotten after she ran into her garage in an attempt to escape.

The prosecutor was singled out for failing to exercise discretion in the case. “There is no justification for 20 years,” Brown told Corey, “All the community was asking for was mercy and justice.”

Corey had offered Alexander a plea deal which carried a three year sentence. Alexander bet on the good sense of the jury, and crapped out. Judge Daniel seemed frustrated by the case:

“Under the state’s 10-20-life law, a conviction for aggravated assault where a firearm has been discharged carries a minimum and maximum sentence of 20 years without regarding to any extenuating or mitigating circumstances that may be present, such as those in this case.”

Rep. Brown was not so diplomatic saying, “She was overcharged by the prosecutor. Period. She never should have been charged.” Brown, the Jacksonville congresswoman, told reporters  that the case was a product of “institutional racism.” Corey said the case deserved to be prosecuted because Alexander fired in the direction of a room where two children were standing.

Mandatory minimum sentences ignore mitigating factors and punish under a “bright-line” test. They are the darling of the “law and order” crowd who see the world in stark shades of black and white and who eschew any discretion for “lily-livered”  judges who have the disturbing habit of mixing compassion and justice in sentencing decisions.

Proponents of the 1999 “10-20-life” law point to  the fact that violent gun crime rates have dropped 30 percent statewide since the law was enacted. Is 20 years fair for a woman trying to defend herself? Should the prosecutor have heeded Rep. Brown’s suggestion and backed off the charges altogether? Can a law be just in the face of a result that flies in the face of “natural justice”?

Source: CNN

`Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

252 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin Prosecutor Accused of Overcharging and Being Party To “Institutional Racism””

  1. Hey Bets
    It took me a while to get used to Patterson. I didn’t like him at all for a couple of years. You can download Kindle, Coby, Barnes and Noble, ereaders. etc… for your home computer or, like me, I have them on my tablet. They will let you read quite a few chapters for free. See if you like a certain book/author before you make the actual purchase. I always look to see who they consult with while writing the book.
    I know what you mean by P. Cornwell. I bought Port Mortuary, the one about Dover Air Force Base and finally got thru the whole thing. I don’t care for that kind of writing either.

  2. Shano, I’m sorry to say that I do not personally know Mr. Dowd, but more power to him, because he’s got the whole idea and he’s got the “fire in the belly” that is needed.

    It’s kind of a horrible situation where you have to say that something awful hooked up a sort of “miracle” in an unexplored corner. That the “SYG” controversy — completely inapplicable in the Zimmerman case (except insofar as it would have applied to Martin, had he lived) — brought public attention to the case of Ms. Alexander. Her baby is in the custody of her abuser!

    A strange sort of “serendipity” occurred in a case in my own experience. I had gone to a county jail to pay a visit to a woman who was jailed in a completely different sort of case, when I overheard two women speaking (the prisoner from her side of the glass and the visitor from the other) in French. They were saying that the appointed lawyer had refused to speak with his client until the day of trial. When I sat down to wait for my name to be called, I casually spoke in French to the visitor, showing her the phone number on the wall for translation services. To make a long story very short, this woman (in jail) had been beaten by her American husband, but when the cops showed up, they understood HIS version and not HERS so they took her off to jail (for beating HIM) and left HER son — who was unrelated to his mother’s new husband — in the care of the purported father. The guy was a — let’s say he was not a great parent. He told the boy that his mother would go to jail for 20 years for attempted murder. The kid believed him and fell into total fear, without any way to get away from the guy. Meanwhile, the mother would not have a consult with her appointed lawyer until the day of trial.

    We got her a pro bono battered women’s lawyer who started a real investigation and totally broke down their case, freeing the woman and enabling us to retrieve this child from his “affectionate step-dad.” And most remarkable, the man’s own daughter testified truthfully as to what had happened: her father had beaten his wife, and then screamed at his daughter to bring him a knife to “finish the job,” but the daughter hesitated and started to cry and the abused wife escaped during the diversion.

    If it were not for the intervention of this lawyer on behalf of this mom and her son, she’d be another Marissa Alexander serving 20 years and her son would be brought up by an abuser.

  3. Great news for Marissa.

    Malisha, do you know this lawyer?

    Contact: Michael G. Dowd, Esq.
    Phone: (212) 751-1640

    Contact: Lincoln Alexander
    Phone: 641-715-3900 ext.: 115615


    (New York, New York) – 5/29/2012 – Attorney Michael G. Dowd brings over 30 years to the table in defending battered women. Dowd is known to have an exceptional history in fighting for battered women and feels that Marissa Alexander’s case is one of the worse examples of domestic and judicial abuse that he’s encountered.

    Marissa Alexander suffered extensive beatings by her husband and has most recently been beaten up by the Florida judicial system. Alexander was handed a 20 year sentence on May 11, 2012 as a result of firing a warning shot into the wall. Alexander feels that the shot saved her life – it scared off her obsessively abusive husband. The incident occurred just days after giving birth.

    Attorney Michael Dowd’s legal advocacy efforts have attracted support globally. His dedication to fighting for battered women brings years of expertise to the movement for Marissa Alexander’s Freedom.

  4. I’ve read lots of Cornwall but stopped when the stories got just too far from reality. Like she was writing for big action movies. Cussler(?) too. Don’t have TV so just watch what I want from the internet. I’ll check out Patterson. I borrow audio from the library. Reading mysteries used to be a vacation or airplane activity. Haven’t done either in years.

  5. Belle, you’re WAAAAAAY ahead of me on both the technology and the watching. I have not watched that many law and order, as you have. I do have a friend who played a role on the very first one (I think you mentioned seeing the first one, right?). Yesterday was her 50th birthday and I couldn’t go to her party, boo hoo, had too much to do down here. But anyway, I tried to watch a couple of those “Criminal Minds” also because on another thread, SonofThunder told me that I reminded him of Garcia! I found that hilarious — I have to buy a whole new wardrobe!

    Anyway, I will try to watch whatever clips I can of George Zimmerman. I haven’t been paying that much close attention recently. Friends of mine, and my son, are much techier than I am, and maybe they can help me.

    One thing about the cop shows on TV, though. They take place in a very unnatural way. Every single cop believes deeply in the absolute life-or-death importance of him or her doing the best job possibly to be done in every single case; they care deeply about everything; they question themselves and others constantly; they want to protect and preserve. You get into a little REAL police station like Sanford Police Department, and yiou might find political infighting, inappropriate behavior, cover-ups, and normal stuff. Normal. Every-day stuff.

    Darren Smith has much to tell us about good cops and how they operate. Otteray Scribe’s daughter is also in law enforcement and obviously cares deeply about her job and its implications for a good society. These people are the true daily heroes of our law enforcement world, but they rarely get into the headlines. Officers who misuse their power more often get into the headlines when something perfectly atrocious goes down and catches the public scrutiny. This, the sad part.

    My buddy says: “How come all the female cops look like fashion models but the male cops are just guys?” Well, Jeez, I don’t know the answer to that one, although as you can tell I have the answer to almost everything ELSE.

  6. bettykath
    I’m a James Patterson fan, I read his books the day I get them, then I’m left until the next one comes out. I have every single one he’s written.Also Patricia Cornwell, she’s a former M.E. a real M.E. Man, I watched Law and Order so long that I can’t watch it now. I burned myself out on it. I also watch Criminal Minds. Basically, everything I watch is something to do with crime. Murder of course. I get a channel on dish, it’s Investigation Discovery. Real life murder investigations, many other things also. People that have disappeared. Just all kinds of crime, narrated of course, but they are all real. I set it to record just the new episodes then watch them later with no commercials. I watched the new 48 Hours: Hard Evidence last night. A woman worked her way up to being a decorated LAPD detective, but she committed a murder in 1974, maybe 76. The girl that was murdered had married this detectives x-boyfriend. They nailed her in 2007 with a little speck of saliva that she left on the inner arm of the victim. A bite mark. According to DNA results, the odds of that saliva not belonging to the perp were 1 in 2000, well, lets just say the 2 had 20 zeros after it.
    You can’t make this stuff up..

  7. Maisha
    The clip is from the police station but it’s on my d.v.r.. So sorry, no link. I have dish network satellite t.v. with a dvr. I see something like that clip, I hit a button and it records it until I stop it. I go back to ‘my recordings’ and watch it from there. I kept looking to see if I could determine whether Z. knew he was being recorded or not, that parts almost impossible to tell. By now I would guess that he’s aware of EVERY time he’s on camera and been schooled accordingly. I have the advantage of recording, and I even watch frame by frame. The zooming ability comes from my t.v. Actually a friend thought ahead and got me that t.v. while I was in the hospital. He realized I was probably gonna spend a lot of time inside, which is something I had never done before. Talk about going crazy… but what a good friend huh ?
    Darn it, I wish you could study that tape like I have. I would love to hear your observations.
    I would highly recommend Dish Net.with d.v.r. to anyone. Heck, I’ve closely studied many defendants, witnesses. you can tell the sec. they forget there on camera.
    I don’t think Z. knew he was being taped. Hence, the attitude, body language. He would have been more, ‘on guard’. He was just tooo smooth.

  8. BettyKath, I know a cop who says there are no realistic cop shows on TV, but that the one that ever came closest was Barney Miller.

  9. Belle,

    It may be too soon for you to watch the movie again, but the lessons about healing and self-empowerment are important. Most of the characters in the book (from SparkNotes), male and female, change for the better. The women recover from the abuse they suffer at the hands of the men to become empowered and in charge of their own lives.

    One of the characters in West Wing has PTSD from having been seriously wounded by gunshot. One episode spends a lot of time with him and a specially trained shrink to get him past the PTSD. I think it’s in season 2. I’ll see if I can the specific episode. The main point made was that PTSD is reliving the episode. In the WW case, Josh had to confront the shooting episode, to talk about it, without reliving it.

    I have no legal training but I liked Law and Order, the first one. It showed the process and it provided pro and con arguments for a number of current topics. I also read a lot. Currently watching Midsomer Murders where there’re murders (never just one), murderers (sometimes more than one). Sometimes they set up the suspects then the suspects start getting killed off. DCI Barnaby (or his wife or daughter) always gets his man/woman/child and a confession(s). Don’t like the violent cop shows, although they are probably more like real life in the cities.

  10. Belle, are you speaking about a clip of Zimmerman at his bond hearing or the clip in the police department, which clip? Is it possible to put up a link so it can be seen on a computer? I don’t know which clip you’re speaking about.

    Personally, I think Zimmerman showed no remorse or worry at all about killing Martin. He kept fussing about how he was hurt, poor thing. He was not recorded as saying anything even close to “I’m sorry” or “I made a mistake” on 2/26/2012. He was completely into self-righteous blaming of everyone (the asshole ran, the thug attacked him, the people wouldn’t help when he yelled ‘help,’ etc. etc.) but himself but he stood there having not only killed someone, having killed an unarmed child. No sense of remorse whatsoever. If he does a plea deal, he will have to “elocute” and you will hear all about his remorse, boo hoo hoo, and plenty of it. Perhaps acting coaches are working with him right now to get his facial expressions right.

  11. Malisha
    I record little bits of things from the T.V. I want to go back, put them in slow mo, watch things quite a few times if it’s something that interests me. I watched that video of him, well, a lot. I watch body movements, facial expressions, all kinds of things. Cocky is the word I came up with. Remorse in my opinion shows on everyone, nothing like that from his behavior. I’m just going on that few secs of video of course, not gonna say how many times I watched him, you would think I was crazy. I also He’s totally comfortable in his surroundings, and he seems to be, well, care free. My t.v. remote will also let me zoom in on his facial expressions. I’m no body language expert so I probably shouldn’t be saying too much, but to sum it up, as I said earlier, very comfortable, cocky, pretty much care free, unconcerned. That’s what I got out of it, someone else might get something totally different then I did.

  12. I think it is quite possible that Zimmerman was “against” the SPD the day he was doing a political move, to attack the person that HIS own favorite cops (that is, Taafe’s buddies) needed attacked. Then he ingratiated himself with the cops who were the victors in that political in-fighting in the department. Then he got to be more and more ambitious about his position in Neighborhood Watch so he could “graduate” to being one of the real cops, on that force. He was in with the in-crowd. He really wanted to make his mark by bringing in Trayvon Martin that night; when it turned out badly, Taafe’s buddies fixed it up for him.

    No bandages one day but bandages three days later? No prob. Either he put ON bandages so his pictures three days later could show terrible injury (having consulted someoone who was a good image PR person) OR he got beaten up between 2/26/2012 and the three days later time when he paraded around the police station with his bandages showing. Perhaps he got a beating at home from his wife who was fed up with his whining? I don’t know. He claimed, after all, that in 2005 his girlfriend beat him up. Maybe it’s his thing.

    I didn’t know he had kids. I sure hope he doesn’t.

    As far as, “one day he doesn’t have a head injury; later he does” — that just means that between the “doesn’t” and the “does” somebody (not any dead person, but a live person) inflicts or self-inflicts a head injury. It’s been known to happen.

  13. belle,

    From the website above:

    “Walker argues that mastering one’s own story and finding someone to listen and respond to it are crucial steps toward self-empowerment and autonomy.”

    Some people use shrinks. Others use sisters or friends. It will take time. I second Malisha’s advice about doing good things for yourself and the abuse was absolutely not your fault. Good luck in your healing.

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