Florida district attorney isn’t a fan of a free press, an informed public, or reading

If this report on a speech Florida State Attorney Angela Corey gave at a luncheon last week is accurate, it paints an alarming picture of a public official who has the power to put people in prison—and in Florida, to send people to their deaths.

A few excerpts:

Property Appraiser Jim Overton asked Corey about a story The New York Times had recently done on a police investigation in St. Johns County. Corey said she hadn’t read it because she doesn’t read any media.

“I don’t read any newspapers,” she said. “My people tell me what I need to know.” . . .

Corey said the media shouldn’t be allowed to report on high-profile cases because they often end up reporting things that are never heard by a jury. She mentioned text messages in the George Zimmerman murder trial that were reported by many media outlets but never presented as evidence during trial.

“The public doesn’t need to know anything about a case before it goes to trial,” she said.

Her office is fighting every day to keep the media out of their cases, said Corey, who’s handled some of the state’s most-watched cases such as Zimmerman, Cristian Fernandez, Marissa Alexander and now Michael Dunn.

(Links added by me.)

It still blows my mind that politicians would even admit to, much lest boast about, their lack of interest in reading. But there’s apparently a constituency for it. But that isn’t the most offensive thing in the passage. If Corey was quoted accurately about her desire to bar the media from covering high-profile cases, that alone should disqualify her from public office.

The media’s watchdog function is particularly important when it comes to prosecutors like Corey, whose conduct and prosecutorial discretion have often been called into question in the cases mentioned above and others. So has her abuse of power. For example, according to Alan Dershowitz, when he publicly criticized Corey’s indictment in the Zimmerman case, Corey not only threatened to sue him and his employer Harvard University, she bizarrely attempted to have him disciplined by the bar association.

Corey has no time for detractors, however. She’s on a divine mission. From the report linked above:

Corey was also asked at the luncheon if she’s considering running for mayor of Jacksonville. She said that wouldn’t happen.

“I’m a career prosecutor and I’m where God meant me to be,” she said.

I’m not a religious person, but I’d put the blame more with the voters of Florida’s fourth judicial district.

UPDATE: Here’s a statement from Corey’s office:

State Attorney Corey has stated numerous times her concerns about Florida’s broad public records law, as it relates to criminal cases. The law is so open that it allows the release of some information which will never be heard or seen by a jury. The SAO’s concerns are that evidence or irrelevant information will be heard or seen by potential jurors and affect the right to a fair and just trial.

Ms. Corey believes the media and the public have a right to know what happens in a case. She has no problem with the media reporting on what happens in court or what is filed in a motion. She also supports the media and the public’s right to view all evidence in a case once it has become public at trial, as is standard in the overwhelming majority of other states.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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Radley Balko · January 21