The Corner

Politics & Policy

Fla. Republicans Strike Blow for Criminal-Justice Reform, Oust Angela Corey

Last night’s primary elections in Florida included one not-to-be-missed shakeup at the state level: State attorney Angela Corey, who came under scrutiny for her handling of the prosecution of George Zimmerman in 2013, lost her re-election bid.

Via the Florida Times-Union:

Melissa Nelson, an unknown corporate lawyer and former prosecutor three months ago, cleared her path to become one of the most powerful and influential figures in Northeast Florida on Tuesday night when she easily defeated incumbent 4th Judicial State Attorney Angela Corey.

The election caps a dizzying rise for Nelson and an equally shocking fall for Corey, one of the most polarizing political figures in Jacksonville history who generated national attention and enormous criticism for her prosecutions of George Zimmerman, Marissa Alexander, 12-year-old Cristian Fernandez and many others. Corey will depart office in the first week of January as the first incumbent state attorney in modern history to lose a contested election.

I wrote about Angela Corey’s checkered professional past in 2013. Corey was an aggressive prosecutor — but also known for a scorched-earth policy in the workplace, belligerent crusades against critics, and skirting the line when it came to legal and professional ethics. (In June, I noted her conspicuous stratagem to close the primary to unfriendly non-Republican voters by quietly sponsoring a write-in “opposition” candidate.) In recent months, several other media outlets have questioned Corey’s conduct. The latest issue of The Nation features Corey on its cover, under the headline: “Is Angela Corey the Cruelest Prosecutor in America?”

The years of (self-inflicted) negative coverage took their toll. Nelson, a well-liked Republican who worked under Corey’s predecessor, ended up winning by a staggering 38 points (64 – 26). With no opposition in the general election, her primary victory cinches the position.

Nelson has said that she aims to restore the community’s trust in the state attorney’s office. I wish her the very best in that effort. It’s long past time for that office to focus on pursuing justice, not personal vendettas.

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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