Dershowitz Says Angela Corey Threatened to Sue Harvard for Zimmerman Criticism
As if the Zimmerman case needs more twists and turns, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz writes that States Attorney Angela Corey called Harvard Law School and went on a 40 minute rant, threatening to sue the University for Dershowitz having expressed his opinion that she misled the court by leaving exculpatory evidence out of the arrest warrant affidavit. She originally called the Dean, but got transferred to the Office of Communications:
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.
The person she was transferred to tried to explain academic freedom to her, but according to Dersowitz, "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
Dershowitz says she should go back to law school.
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.
As examples of the half-truths in the affidavit (available here), Dershowitz points out:
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 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.
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 the university for which he works, and to try to get him disbarred, is the epitome of unprofessionalism.
Dershowitz also discusses the irony in the state's motion to revoke bond, considering the state's affidavit had the same misrepresentations by omission:
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.
Putting aside that Zimmerman wasn't questioned by either side about finances at the bond hearing, so it wasn't his testimony but his wife's testimony that was incomplete, which the state and judge think he had a duty to correct, I think Dershowitz's comparison isn't far-fetched. The state's affidavit was misleading and a one-sided telling, with no mention of the evidence collected that refuted its theory.
Had anything been seized from Zimmerman at the time the arrest warrant was executed, Zimmerman would have been able to challenge the probable cause finding in motion to suppress. His grounds would have included the affiants' intentional omission of material facts from the affidavit, which had they been included, would have defeated probable cause. (Franks v. Delaware). In my view, the motion likely would have been granted and "good faith" would not have applied to save it. One could say that what's good for the goose should be good for the gander.
In my opinion, not only was the affidavit in this case legally questionable as to what was included and omitted about the investigation, it failed to allege any facts to establish probable cause for second degree murder, the crime for which the arrest was warrant was sought. The affidavit didn't apprise the reviewing magistrate of the elements of the crime or its theory as to why probable cause for that particular crime existed, as opposed to manslaughter or a lesser crime. There were no facts set forth that it represented to be evidence that Zimmerman acted with a depraved mind or out of hatred, ill-will, malice or spite.
Corey avoided the grand jury, insisted on making the decision herself and then overcharged the case. She held a press conference describing how she prayed with the victims' family. She seems to view her job as defending victims. It's not. Her office represents all of the people of the state of Florida. By law, she must afford victims certain specified rights, but she doesn't represent them. Her job is to prosecute perpetrators of crime and ensure crime victims have a voice to the extent the law allows. She's not their lawyer.
If this case goes south, she is the one to be held accountable -- the buck stops with her.
Florida has adopted the American Bar Association Standards of Criminal Justice Relating to Prosecution Function. This is the product of prolonged and careful deliberation by lawyers experienced in criminal prosecution and defense and should be consulted for further guidance. See also rule 4-3.3(d) governing ex parte proceedings, among which grand jury proceedings are included. Applicable law may require other measures by the prosecutor and knowing disregard of these obligations or systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion could constitute a violation of rule 4-8.4.
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