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Politics and Justice in Florida
State GOP leaders politicized the Trayvon Martin case.

Florida attorney general Pam Bondi

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But it had the effect Crump wanted, which was to galvanize the attention of media and public figures near and far — one of whom was Pam Bondi, Florida’s first-term attorney general. Appearing on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight on March 27, 2012, Bondi remarked: “[Special prosecutor Angela Corey is] conducting a thorough investigation because we need to get Trayvon’s girlfriend to cooperate which I don’t know if was happening previously. And they may have had good reason for that. But she’s cooperating now. And again, a thorough investigation is being done to ensure that justice is sought for that family.”

The circumstances of Crump’s “interview” with “DeeDee” — and the suspicious way he made its “contents” public — raised doubts from the beginning. So why did the ploy succeed with Bondi? She gave Morgan the answer: “Well, Piers, first let me tell you. I’ve spoken to Trayvon’s parents. They are amazing, sweet, kind people. My heart goes out to them. I’m actually friends with their attorneys Ben Crump and Daryl Parks. They’re wonderful lawyers who are representing them.”

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That friendship likely began with the case of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old Florida boy who died in 2006 at one of the state’s juvenile “boot camps,” all five of which were subsequently closed. Anderson’s case became a national story, with accusations that the guards who allegedly caused Anderson’s death were racially motivated, and counter-accusations that the politicization of the case had led to coerced statements and trumped-up charges. (Sound familiar?) Parks & Crump, the law firm established by the Martin family’s attorneys, Daryl Parks and Benjamin Crump, represented Anderson’s family. It is the first case they cite on their firm’s “Client Satification [sic]” page: “Parks & Crump generated widespread public outcry in this case with marches and demonstrations.” Bondi was the assistant state attorney who prosecuted the seven guards and one nurse charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child. The jury deliberated only 90 minutes before returning a verdict of not guilty.

Bondi and Crump lost the case (though the family did end up receiving several million dollars from various government entities in “wrongful death” settlements), but Crump seems to have won Bondi’s trust.

What part could she play to forward his latest cause? Again, from her interview with Morgan:

I have no legal role as attorney general in the state of Florida. That authority is left to the state attorneys. But what I did do was I discussed with the governor the appointment of Angela Corey, a special prosecutor in Jacksonville who’s well removed from the case. She’s absolutely excellent. And the Florida Department of Law Enforcement [is] now involved in the case.

Rick Scott, Pam Bondi (whose office declined a request for comment), and Angela Corey were closely connected years before the Zimmerman trial. Corey was elected state attorney for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit in August 2008, winning the Republican primary with 64 percent of the vote. Two years later, Scott ran for governor and Bondi for attorney general. Corey was a donor to both, contributing to Scott $300 and to Bondi $750. While serving as one of Bondi’s eight state campaign co-chairs, Corey appeared on the campaign trail for Scott, and she served on the transition teams of both officials following their successful campaigns.

“Well removed from the case,” to use Bondi’s phrase, Corey may have been — but several other state attorneys had that qualification, as well. Moreover, Corey’s reputation for overcharging — that is, for bringing more severe charges than what she could prove in court — was a poorly guarded secret. In such a high-profile case, one that called for prudence, dispassion, and a thoughtful consideration of the evidence, Corey seems to have been a particularly bad choice for the assignment.

At the crucial moment, required to choose between dutiful officials and the growing mob, Florida’s Republican leaders buckled.

— Ian Tuttle is an editorial intern at National Review.



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