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Prosecutor in Trayvon Martin case known for toughness, political connections

This news story was published on April 23, 2012.
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By Amy Pavuk, The Orlando Sentinel –

ORLANDO, Fla. — State Attorney Angela Corey has tried more than 50 homicides. She’s known for being tough on crime and an advocate for victims, and she has been credited with filling up her local jail.

And she’s connected to Florida’s Republican Party.

So it wasn’t surprising that Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi appointed Corey as the special prosecutor to investigate the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

That thrust the 57-year-old lawyer from Jacksonville into the national spotlight and could be the biggest test of her legal and political career.

Corey’s office filed a second-degree murder charge against George Zimmerman, who shot 17-year-old Martin in a Sanford neighborhood Feb. 26.

Last week, Corey and her team argued unsuccessfully in court that Zimmerman should not be granted bail. But it is unclear what sort of role she will be taking on the ongoing case. Her office would only say that she is “part of the team” and that the two prosecutors she has assigned to the case will be in court as co-counsel for each proceeding.

Corey would not discuss the case or give details as to why her office made its decision to charge Zimmerman. But when she announced the charge this month, Corey said her office “did not come to this decision lightly.”

“We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition,” Corey said.

Bondi, who was a prosecutor in Hillsborough County for more than 15 years, said she has known Corey throughout her career and considers her a mentor.

“She is an aggressive and compassionate prosecutor who is committed to upholding the law,” Bondi said.

The governor’s office said in a written statement that Scott chose Corey “because he knows she’s skilled at what she does and has tremendous respect for ensuring justice is served. She believes in due process and cares about the victims.”

Corey, who was on the transition teams for both Scott and Bondi, is serving her first term as state attorney in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. She has built a reputation as being tough on crime.

A University of North Florida study published earlier this year said Corey’s office is driving higher incarceration rates in Duval County, despite the fact crime and the number of arrests are down.

“We wanted to figure out what’s driving the incarceration rate in Duval County so high,” said Michael Hallett, professor and chairman of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at UNF. “The answer is Angela Corey.”

Hallett’s study found that since Corey took office, the number of trials in the circuit has tripled.

“She has a very aggressive prosecutorial style,” Hallett said.

Corey’s office employs 319 people, including 107 prosecutors. She earns about $150,000 annually and will serve a second term in office, as no one filed to run against her in this year’s election.

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