State Attorney says she doesn't read news

Angela Corey: 'My people tell me what I need to know'

Published On: Jan 18 2014 11:37:36 AM EST   Updated On: Jan 21 2014 06:31:27 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Fourth Circuit State Attorney Angela Corey says she doesn't read newspapers and doesn't think the public should know any details about a criminal case until it goes to a jury.

Corey discussed her news preferences and her opinions on Florida's open-government laws during an address Friday to the First Coast Tiger Bay Club. The Florida Times-Union reported that Corey declined to speak with reporters after the event.

Corey was asked about a recent New York Times article about a police investigation in St. Johns County. According to the newspaper, Corey said she had not read the article 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 also said that media should not be allowed to report on high-profile cases because they publish details that are never heard by a jury, such as text messages in the George Zimmerman case that were reported by several news outlets but never presented as evidence.

Corey was brought in as special prosecutor in the Zimmerman trial, and a high-profile stand-your-ground case in her own jurisdiction -- Michael Dunn's murder charge in the death of Trayvon Martin -- is to go to trial later this year.

A ruling Judge Russell Healey to block release of "discovery material" -- potential evidence in the case -- in the Dunn case was just overturn Friday by the 1st District Court of Appeal.

"The public doesn't need to know anything about a case before it goes to trial," Corey told the Tiger Bay audience on Friday.

Corey's office has handled other closely watched cases, including that of Marissa Alexander, a Florida woman sentenced to a mandatory 20-year prison sentence for firing what she insisted was a warning shot during a fight with her husband. She tried to invoke Florida's stand-your-ground law, but the judge threw out her self-defense claim, noting that she could have run out of the house to escape her husband but instead got the gun and went back inside.

Alexander now is awaiting a new trial. Corey has defended the handling of Alexander's case, saying that she believes Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.

The attorney who represented Zimmerman at trial said he thinks public records laws work, even if the public learns details not presented to a jury. Zimmerman was acquitted at trial last year.

"I would not want to live in a world where Angela Corey can charge whatever she wants and the public doesn't know about it," Mark O'Mara said. "As long as we have an effective jury selection process, which we do, it shouldn't be a problem for someone to receive a fair trial."

If the public doesn't know what's happening, prosecutors and law enforcement are more likely to abuse their power and withhold crucial information in a case, said Barbara Petersen, president of Florida's First Amendment Foundation.

"The whole purpose of our public records laws is accountability," Petersen said. "And it's especially important to hold prosecutors and law enforcement accountable."

Florida law also allows prosecutors to argue to a judge for some information not to be released to the public, Petersen said.

The state attorney's office issued the following statement:

"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. Ms. Corey also supports the media and 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."