By Max Marbut
When Angela Corey was invited to speak Friday at the meeting of the Downtown Council of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, she didn’t know a high-profile case involving a minor would be front-page news that day.
After Corey’s remarks concerning her experiences and impressions over her 30-year career as a prosecutor and more than two years as the State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit, she opened the floor for questions.
The first question was about the 12-year-old boy who was indicted for first degree murder for killing his 2-year-old brother.
Corey said that while “every decision to indict has to come through me, whether he was 40 years old or 12, only the grand jury can indict for first degree murder.”
She said the reason behind the capital charge had as much to do with state law as the circumstances of the case.
The investigation determined the victim died as result of multiple blunt-force trauma, which constitutes aggravated child abuse. Under Florida law that crime, when it results in death, mandates indictment for first degree murder, said Corey.
When asked why the child is being prosecuted as an adult rather than as a juvenile, Corey explained that in the juvenile system, prosecutors have very little input when it comes to sentencing. By trying the defendant as an adult, he can be incarcerated for a longer period of time and that will give the state more time for treatment.
“Obviously, anybody who kills a 2-year-old child has to be in need of mental health treatment. It was the only way the State Attorney’s Office could help the child and protect the community,” said Corey.
She said it took her office two months to decide to send the case to the grand jury and staff is working with the defense attorneys.
“We’re taking a holistic approach” to the case, said Corey.
Looking back on three decades as a prosecutor, Corey said one of the major changes she has observed is the attitude of the youngest defendants.
“Juveniles used to be remorseful. Now, there’s nothing in their eyes,” she said.
Corey related a story about a juvenile who was accused of homicide. After the suspect was interrogated by a detective and then informed he would be charged with murder, Corey said the suspect replied, “OK. When can I go home?”
“They almost wear being arrested like a badge of honor. They consider jail time a rite of passage,” said Corey.
She also said it’s common while they’re being arraigned or tried for young offenders to be “very disrespectful to their parents – if their parents even show up in court.”
The next meeting of the Downtown Council is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. June 17 at Currents Riverfront Bistro in the Aetna Building on the Southbank. Guests are welcome. For more information about the Downtown Council, visit www.downtowncouncil.org.