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June 5, 2012 5:06 pm

Prosecutor Angela Corey Rants and Whines About My Criticism of Her

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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Prosecutor Angela Corey. Photo: Business Insider.

State Attorney Angela Corey, the prosecutor in the George Zimmerman case, recently called the Dean of Harvard Law School to complain about my criticism of some of her actions.  She was transferred to the Office of Communications and proceeded to engage in a 40 minute rant, during which she threatened to sue Harvard Law School, to try to get me disciplined by the Bar Association and to file charges against me for libel and slander.

She said that because I work for Harvard and am identified as a professor she had the right to sue Harvard.  When the communications official explained to her that I have a right to express my opinion as “a matter of academic freedom,” and that Harvard has no control over what I say, she did not seem to understand.  She persisted in her nonstop whining, claiming that she is prohibited from responding to my attacks by the rules of professional responsibility—without mentioning that she has repeatedly held her own press conferences and made public statements throughout her career.

Her beef was that I criticized her for filing a misleading affidavit that willfully omitted all information about the injuries Zimmerman had sustained during the “struggle” it described.  She denied that she had any obligation to include in the affidavit truthful material that was favorable to the defense.  She insisted that she is entitled to submit what, in effect, were half truths in an affidavit of probable cause, so long as she subsequently provides the defense with exculpatory evidence.  She should go back to law school, where she will learn that it is never appropriate to submit an affidavit that contains a half truth, because a half truth is regarded by the law as a lie, and anyone who submits an affidavit swears to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Before she submitted the probable cause affidavit, Corey was fully aware that Zimmerman had sustained serious injuries to the front and back of his head.  The affidavit said that her investigators “reviewed” reports, statements and “photographs” that purportedly “detail[ed] the following.”  It then went on to describe “the struggle,” but it deliberately omitted all references to Zimmerman’s injuries which were clearly visible in the photographs she and her investigators reviewed.  That is Hamlet without the Prince! The judge deciding whether there is probable cause to charge the defendant with second degree murder should not have been kept in the dark about physical evidence that is so critical to determining whether a homicide occurred, and if so, a homicide of what degree.  By omitting this crucial evidence, Corey deliberately misled the court.

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Corey seems to believe that our criminal justice system is like a poker game in which the prosecution is entitled to show its cards only after the judge has decided to charge the defendant with second degree murder.  That’s not the way the system is supposed to work and that’s not the way prosecutors are supposed to act.  That a prosecutor would hide behind the claim that she did not have an obligation to tell the whole truth until after the judge ruled on probable cause displays a kind of gamesmanship in which prosecutors should not engage.

The prisons, both in Florida and throughout the United States, are filled with felons who submitted sworn statements that contained misleading half truths.  Corey herself has probably prosecuted such cases.

Ironically, Corey has now succeeded in putting Zimmerman back in prison for a comparably misleading omission in his testimony.  His failure to disclose money received from a PayPal account requesting donations for his legal defense made his testimony misleadingly incomplete.  In her motion to revoke his bail, Corey argued that Zimmerman “intentionally deceived the court” by making “false representations.”  The same can be said about Prosecutor Corey.  She too misled and deceived the court by submitting an affidavit that relied on a review of photographs and other reports that showed injuries to Zimmerman, without disclosing the existence of these highly relevant injuries.

Even if Angela Corey’s actions were debatable, which I believe they were not, I certainly have the right, as a professor who has taught and practiced criminal law nearly 50 years, to express a contrary view.  The idea that a prosecutor would threaten to sue someone who disagrees with her for libel and slander, to sue to university for which he works, and to try to get him disbarred, is the epitome of unprofessionalism.  Fortunately, truth is a defense to such charges.

I will continue to criticize prosecutors when their actions warrant criticism, to praise them when their actions deserve praise, and to comment on ongoing cases in the court of public opinion.  If Angela Corey doesn’t like the way freedom of expression operates in the United States, there are plenty of countries where truthful criticism of prosecutors and other government officials result in disbarment, defamation suits and even criminal charges.  We do not want to become such a country.

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  • RobertFrank

    PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE THIS PETITION TO HAVE CASEY ANTHONY TRIED IN FEDERAL COURT. CREATED 4/14/12.

    Double jeopardy is subject the dual sovereignty doctrine. It states that a person can be tried for the same crime twice if he or she is being tried by more than one distinct, sovereign government. A person can be tried by the federal government and by a state government for the same crime. Both entities are distinctly sovereign units that have their own sets of laws and their power derived from different sets of people.

    The petition addresses the DOJ policy that guides them in deciding whether or not to bring federal charges against someone after a person has already been tried by a state.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/lanny-a-breuer-assistant-attorney-general-criminal-division-try-casey-anthony-in-federal-court-for-the-murder-of-her-daughter

    Or go to change.org and search for BREUER

  • THEIFAM

    One could read a million accusatory instruments filed in various jurisdictions over the past 3-4 years, and would not find one- one where the District Attorney or State Attorney in the respective jurisdictions included plausibly favorable allegations to the defense.

    The injuries could also be indicative of a man who failed in his initiation of an attack upon Mr. Martin, and who realizing that he had barked up the wrong tree, shot the man he was bullying and intimidating in the heart.

    It is not the prosecution’s job to speculate about how injuries were sustained by the accused criminal. It’s amazing that this is the first time Mr. Dershowitz has gone public with such a novel theory of criminal procedure and advocacy. I am sure Harvard is not his only source of income.

    We need to start writing petitions to Harvard calling for his termination if he is going to single out this case as the frontier for changing the way accusatory instruments are to be drafted.

  • THEIFAM

    One could read a million accusatory instruments filed in various jurisdictions over the past 3-4 years, and would not find one- one where the District Attorney or State Attorney in the respective jurisdictions included plausibly favorable to the defense.

    The injuries could also be indicative of a man who failed in his initiation of an attack upon Mr. Martin, and who realizing that he had barked up the wrong tree, shot the man he was bullying and intimidating in the heart.

    It is not the prosecution’s job to speculate about how injuries were sustained by the accused criminal. It’s amazing that this is the first time Mr. Dershowitz has gone public with such a novel theory of criminal procedure and advocacy. I am sure Harvard is not his only source of income.

    We need to start writing petitions to Harvard calling for his termination if he is going to single out this case as the frontier for changing the way accusatory instruments are to be drafted.

  • timthomas

    the evidence is “critical to determining whether a homicide occurred”? i think professor dershowitz might need to join the prosecutor in a criminal law bar review course…..

    • Edward H

      There is a difference between homicide and manslaughter. The evidence is crucial in determining whether Zimmerman acted in self defense or maliciously.

      • THEIFAM

        So if a person intends to claim the insanity defense in a murder case should a prosecutor include in the accusatory instrument the fact that the criminal defendant screamed out, “how did I get this gun in my hand?”

        The prosecution is under absolutely no obligation to promote the defendant’s defense nor anticipate that any part of the res gestae necessarily exculpates him or her. If they in the course of their investigation uncover exculpatory evidence, they are under an absolute obligation to disclose that to the defense. The failure to do so then becomes an ethical issue at a minimum.

        To not put in information in an accusatory instrument that has to be developed by the person who has every incentive to lie to save his own neck, and has in fact demonstrated that propensity time and time again, would frustrate the prosecutorial function in this country and cast our criminal justice system into utter choas.

        The only person who can testify as to how those injuries were obtained is a person who has shown a propensity to lie, and killed the other person who might have said something completely different.

        Did Dershowitz say that the NY prosecutors should have included in their indictment that Tupac Shakur’s DNA was not found in the woman who accused him of crimes? Where was Dershowitz then? And does the absence of semen or sperm or the presence of injuries mean a crime hasn’t been committed?

        Criticism borne upon objectivity and precedent is one thing. Criticism borne upon bias and predisposition is repugnant to our system of justice.

        • Edward H

          Wow…you just really cannot stand being contradicted can you?

          • THEIFAM

            Ed my comments were not directed at you. They were directed at a distinguished law professor whom I have the utmost respect for choosing this forum to construct a novel theory in criminal procedure.

            He is not the only one who has dedicated years of his life to the study and practice of criminal law and criminal procedure. Why are not professors all over the country many of whom teach a laws schools that are on par with Harvard like Yale, Stanford, Duke, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, University of Chicago, Texas, UNC, etc., etc., etc., why are those criminal law professors not joining in on Dershowitz’s opinion? Why are not some of the most renowned criminal defense attorneys not chiming in? It’s disgraceful what he said, and his theory is completely unfounded.

      • timthomas

        Edward,

        Homicide refers to an act that results in the killing of a human being. Some of it is justifiable under the law (e.g., killings in war and, yes, some instances of self-defense), but it’s still homicide. The distinction you’re making is between murder (which in most cases requires proof of malice) and manslaughter (which does not require proof of malice).

  • As an attorney, she should know that a public figure such as herself has no protection whatsoever from criticism. Not realizing it is misdemeanor ignorance; calling Harvard to complain is felony stupidity. And for not remembering that as a government official it is her sacred duty to defend the rights guaranteed by the Constitution (including free speech)…is Devil’s Island still around?

    If her legal abilities are equal to what she had demonstrated so far, she may end up being Zimmerman’s best friend.

    • THEIFAM

      Not all speech is protected when it seeks to impugn unrightfully a person’s performance as a professional. You show me 100 accusatory instruments from any jurisdiction, and I guarantee you you won’t find information in them favorable to the accused. It’s nonsensical.

      This is not a case where an alibi- established by independent witnesses- not subject to jeopardy as Mr. Zimmerman is was known to the prosecution at the time of the drafting of the instrument and it was not included therein. And even then, do you know how many cases have hinged on alibi defenses and the prosecutors were made aware of the alibi witness at the time of the drafting of the accusatory instrument or presentment to the grand jury? Under Mr. Dershowitz’s theory, all of those cases which did not include information of the alibi in the accusatory are now subject to some collateral attack because of inherent defects in the pleadings.

      Does he want us to free half of the convicted murderers in America?

    • THEIFAM

      How many murder trials have you tried to verdict successfully?

  • Jack

    Richard Braun:

    Zimmerman killed an animal in self-defense, after he was brutally attacked. Have you seen the broken nose and gashes on the back of his head? I suggest you learn something, retard.

    • Scott Elliott

      Please don’t call people “animals” and don’t call people “retard” or other demeaning names. Especially don’t call people names when apologizing for a killer.

      • Edward H

        Thank you Scott for saying what needed to be said.
        Pointless name calling does nothing to further a debate and only shows deep rooted immaturity and an inability to form a well constructed opinion.

      • THEIFAM

        Great point Scott. It’s sad that you had to even address that issue.

  • Richard Braun

    So, the self-aggrandizing, motor-mouth defender of the homicidal maniac O.J. is now defending another disreputable murderer. Angela Corey deserves a medal for calling his boss.

    • THEIFAM

      I guess he couldn’t find anything favorable to OJ that should have been in his accusatory instrument.

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