The Paul Storey Death Sentence Mess

In 2008, a Texas jury found that Paul Storey (left) had murdered Jonas Cherry (right), and the prosecutor, Christy Jack, told the same jury deliberating on the proper punishment,  “It should go without saying, that all of Jonas’s family and everyone who loved him believe the death penalty is appropriate.”

Storey was indeed sentenced to death by the jury’s vote. Cherry’s family, however, opposed the death penalty, and said they always had. In 2016, they issued a video reaffirming their principled objection to executions,

Responding to the video, one of the jurors, Sven Berge,  made a  sworn statement in 2017 stating, “Had I known that Jonas Cherry’s parents were opposed to Paul Storey receiving the death penalty, I would have never have voted for death.” The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, upon a writ of habeas corpus filed by Storey’s lawyers, stayed Storey’s impending execution and   ordered Judge Everett Young  to investigate whether Jack’s statement  had affected the jury’s decision. After a three-day hearing, he ruled last year that ProsecutorJack’s statement  was improper and prejudicial, because it constituted prosecutorial misconduct “to interject the wishes of the victim’s family for the jury to return a verdict of death.”

Not only that, Judge Young also found that the Jack’s statement to the jury was false. This meant that the judge rejected testimony from  Jack defending her claim that the family wanted Storey to die. She had testified under oath that Jonas Cherry’s father approached her during the trial to say he had changed his mind about opposing the death penalty. The judge recommended that  Storey’s death sentence be reduced to life without parole.

As if that wasn’t enough to confuse things, a Texas appeals court, in a 6 to 3 ruling, has held  that new evidence about the prosecutor’s apparent falsehood did not justify reducing Storey’s sentence, not because a lie sent him to Death Row, but because defense lawyers waited too long to raise the issue and should have been more diligent in seeking Cherrys’ views on capital punishment. One of the dissenting judges, In Judge Scott Walker objected to the opinion’s assertion  that  lawyers should to “go prying into the private feelings of a murder victim’s family without a very good reason for doing so,” other than beginning with the presumption that “prosecutors misrepresented the truth or even lied.”

As it stands now, however, Storey’s execution will proceed.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

Ethics Verdict On George Zimmerman’s Gun Auction: Ick, But Not Unethical

Only used once!

Only used once!

George Zimmerman is auctioning off the 9-millimeter pistol he used to shoot Trayvon Martin on a website called

Zimmerman wrote,

“I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American Firearm Icon The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012.”

George goes on to say that the proceeds will be used to “fight [Black Lives Matter] violence against Law Enforcement officers” and to “ensure the demise of Angela Corey’s persecution career and Hillary Clinton’s anti-firearm rhetoric.”

Social media is going  nuts with hate, with many comments wishing that someone would buy the gun and shoot Zimmerman with it.

Now hear this:

There is absolutely nothing unethical in any way about Zimmerman selling his property, including the gun that he used to shoot Trayvon Martin.

The gun has historical and cultural significance. Despite its grisly past, someone may want to purchase it.  Booth’s derringer is exhibited at Ford’s Theater, and nobody has ever taken offense at someone purchasing and exhibiting the gun that killed a President and American icon. Continue reading

Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck Update: Unethical Prosecutors Edition

McCulloch: Mission Impossible

McCulloch: Mission Impossible

  • CNN’s Unethical Experts. Where does CNN find these people? Carol Costello interviewed two former prosecutors regarding the beginning of grand jury deliberations in Ferguson, both female; one white and blonde, one African American. (As soon as I retrieve the names of these disgraceful representatives of the legal profession, I’ll add them to the post.) The African American prosecutor made her position clear: since St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch has the authority to charge Officer Darren Williams without resorting to a grand jury, that’s what he should do. She termed his resort to a citizen panel to review the evidence a “punt.” Note that McCulloch’s critics have no idea what evidence is in his hands, so criticizing his decisions regarding it is by any measure irresponsible, unprofessional and unfair. She also  suggested that McCulloch was biased against African Americans because his father, a police officer, had been shot and killed by a black man. She presented no other evidence of racial bias. Then Costello went to the blonde ex-prosecutor, who a) agreed that using the grand jury was a “punt”—again without her personal knowledge of the evidence being considered; b) opined that the evidence was probably a mess, and was not clear enough or sufficient to conflict the officer of anything, so c) what should be done is appoint a special prosecutor as in the Trayvon Martin case. She noted that the Martin special prosecutor, Angela Corey, brought an indictment without using a grand jury, and that while the case may not have had enough evidence to sustain a conviction...“at least it calmed things down.”   

Continue reading

And The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck Rolls On…Apparently Forever

It may be a train wreck, but if you're a liberal race-baiter, it's such a darned comfy one...

It may be a train wreck, but if you’re a liberal race-baiter, it’s such a darned comfy one…

The Michael Dunn trial ended without a verdict on the first degree murder charge, and the news media just couldn’t help themselves. Although the facts of two cases have virtually nothing in common, various prominent media figures could not resist connecting it to the Trayvon Martin killing and George Zimmerman’s trial, thus compounding the damage they have already inflicted on the public’s understanding of law, race, and ethics.

Other events spurred them on as well. There was the George Zimmerman interview in which he described himself as a victim, and this set some people off. Zimmerman is a victim—a victim of being made the race-conflict advocate’s poster boy for profiling villainy and bigotry when there are absolutely no facts that support such a characterization. He’s just not the dead victim in his tragic episode. Nor is the status of irresponsible, gun-toting fool necessarily incompatable with the status of victim in his case, but such nuances are beyond the comprehension of many among us, especially the many with press credentials.

Then the Providence College Black Studies Program announced that it would continue to give out an annual award called the Trayvon Martin Award for Social Justice, intended to honor those who have shown leadership and commitment to ”challenging and eliminating racism” and “empowering others to seek social justice.” The inexcusable implication of the award is that Trayvon Martin was the victim of racism, and that Zimmerman’s acquittal was social injustice, when in fact it was the epitome of the justice system working well. The program established the award in 2012, before Zimmerman had been tried or permitted to mount a defense in court, so this was no surprise. In fairness, the award needs to be renamed the Trayvon Martin “Our Minds Are Made Up So Don’t Confuse Us With Facts” Award. But then, fairness is not what the enshriners of this false but convenient narrative care about.

This morning,  CNN’s  over-opinionated morning news co-anchor Chris Cuomo (I’ll bet you he runs for office as a Democrat within five years or less) was showing part of his taped interview with Dunn prosecutor Angela Corey. I admit that it was fun watching Corey squirm under Cuomo’s biased and misleading questioning regarding the Martin and Dunn trials; she contributed greatly, after all, to the rush to judgment and trial-by-publicity in the Zimmerman case. Still, Corey tried to make a valid point to Cuomo (whose partner, Kate Bolduan, increasingly sits compliantly and submissively in silence while Cuomo takes over the broadcast and crosses lines of journalistic objectivity left and right): by focusing on a few high-profile cases, media coverage distorts the public’s perception of Florida’s stand-your-ground law as well as the justice African-Americans, victims as well as those accused of crimes, receive in the courts.

Cuomo proceeded to prove Corey correct. First he falsely described the Martin case, describing it as an instance of a young black man, minding his own business, getting into a confrontation, who “wins a fight, essentially”–these were Cuomo’s exact words—gets killed for it, and his killer goes free. This would be unforgivable from a guy in a bar; it is outrageous from a news anchor. If Martin had been shot by Zimmerman after the fight had ended, as Cuomo’s false description suggests, then he would have been guilty of murder beyond question. The evidence presented at trial indicated that Zimmerman shot Martin while he was losing a fight, and when he had no way of knowing how victorious the man on top of him intended to be. That created sufficient evidence of self- defense to win Zimmerman an acquittal. Cuomo was spreading false information to fit a politically motivated false narrative. Continue reading

The George Zimmerman Show Trial

It CAN happen here. Or at least in Florida.

It CAN happen here. Or at least in Florida.

Before George Zimmerman was charged with the second degree murder of Trayvon Martin, the suspicion was already growing that powerful people, much of the news media and perhaps one entire political party was attempting to take his freedom and life for ideological, partisan or political gain. Then came the bizarre and unprofessional public statements by Florida prosecutor Angela Corey, unequivocally proclaiming her alliance with the Martin family and her certainty of Zimmerman’s guilt—neither of which sentiments were appropriate or ethical. Now that we have seen and heard the state’s case, there is little doubt that Zimmerman, contrary to American principles of justice, is being required to prove his innocence, rather than be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are reasons for this, not the least of which is that the President of the United States decided to dictate that getting to the bottom of the “Why is Trayvon dead?” conundrum was a matter of national importance, but none of them are honorable,  fair, right or ethical. Continue reading

Just What We Needed—An Ethically Clueless Prosecutor In The George Zimmerman Case

The monkey wrench in the gears of justice is named “Angel Corey”

It was evident from her initial statement on the case, however, that an ethically clueless prosecutor is what we, and Florida, and George Zimmerman got when Angela Corey was chosen for the job. Prof. Alan Dershowitz made a quick and accurate diagnosis of her problem on cable TV, and it apparently prompted Corey, ethically clueless as she is, to settle the matter by leaving no doubt. Dershowitz reports that Corey was so enraged by his calling her unethical and incompetent affidavit of probable cause to indict Zimmerman for murder as unethical and incompetent as it was that she has threatened to sue him and Harvard University. Dershowitz reports:

“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….”

This incident indicates that Corey also does not seem to understand the First Amendment and the Constitution, which  is a serious, indeed fatal, handicap for a prosecutor. It turns out that this ridiculous conduct—-a prosecutor trying to intimidate pundits by threatening to sue a legal analyst and law professor for criticizing her handling of a high-profile case—wasn’t even an aberration for Corey. Reporter Ron Littlepage writes:

Last December when I wrote a column critical of how she handled the Cristian Fernandez case, she fired off a two-page, single-spaced letter on official state attorney letterhead hinting at lawsuits for libel.…Then there’s Corey’s spat with Sandy D’Alemberte.

D’Alemberte is a former president of the American Bar Association, a former president of Florida State University and a law professor — not too shabby in the legal credentials department. When Corey was appointed to head up the investigation into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, D’Alemberte had this to say: “I cannot imagine a worse choice for a prosecutor to serve in the Sanford case. There is nothing in Angela Corey’s background that suits her for the task, and she cannot command the respect of people who care about justice.” Earlier, D’Alemberte had criticized Corey in the Fernandez case. The reaction then: A public records request from her office to FSU seeking all emails, text messages and phone messages involving D’Alemberte related to Fernandez….”

This is beyond unprofessional, and reaches a level of shocking incompetence, arrogance, abuse of power and stupidity.

But wait! There’s more!  Law professor William Jacobson makes the perceptive legal ethics observation that Corey has created a conflict of interest for herself that raises the question of whether she should be removed from the case. He writes:

“Will she conduct the prosecution in such a way as to achieve justice, or to set herself up for a personal lawsuit against Dershowitz and Harvard?….  By threatening suit against a critic in the middle of the case, Corey has put her own financial interests at stake in the outcome and conduct of the prosecution. Florida has adopted American Bar Association Standards of Criminal Justice Relating to Prosecution Function.  ABA Standard 3-1.3 Conflicts of Interest provides in pertinent part:

(f) A prosecutor should not permit his or her professional judgment or obligations to be affected by his or her own political, financial, business, property, or personal interests.

I don’t think the question of Angela Corey having to step down as prosecutor in the case should even get to Prof. Jacobson’s issue, however. Her conduct in threatening critics, as well as her unethical probable cause affidavit and her blatant alliance with Trayvon Martin’s parents, trumpeted in her unethical press conference, makes it screamingly obvious that she shouldn’t be a prosecutor in this or any other case.

I’ll leave the final word to Prof. Dershowitz:

“…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….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.

“…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…

“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.

“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.”

Indeed we don’t. But we seem to already be a country where a local incident is blown up into a racially-polarizing national event, with the assistance of race-hucksters, an inept and biased press, and irresponsible elected officials, including the President of the United States, who annoints the victim as his hypothetical offspring. Then, when the justice system is supposed to take over and sort out the facts and the law objectively, fairly and dispassionately, the case is placed in the hands of biased hack like Angela Corey.

That’s the kind of county we are, and that’s bad enough.


Pointer: InstaPundit


Graphic: Billerico

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck Update: The Special Prosecutor Buys a Ticket!

Don’t tell me Angela Corey is unethical too! Hey…I told you not to tell me!

Here, almost in its entirety, is noted legal ethicist Monroe Freedman’s post on the The Legal Ethics Forum, regarding Special Prosecutor Angela Corey’s outrageously unethical press conference. I was going to post on this myself, but I could not improve on Prof. Freedman, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his career and contributions to legal ethics theory. His title was “Trayvon Martin, Angela Corey, and Prosecutors’ Ethics.”  When I read it, the only thing I could say was “Bingo!”  From here on, it is all Monroe:

“Special Prosecutor Angela Corey used her press conference to establish three things.

“First, her investigative team… “worked tirelessly” in a “never-ending search for the truth and a quest to always do the right thing for the right reason.”  We are “not only ministers of justice,” we are “seekers of the truth,” and we “stay true to that mission.” Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week, Trayvon Martin Ethics Train Wreck Division: Dr. Boyce Watkins

“Sybrina’s words have opened the door for millions of people to understand when George Zimmerman is let off the hook with either an acquittal or a plea bargain for a lesser charge.”

Syracuse University Professor Boyce Watkins, in a blog post complaining that the comments of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother stating that she thought the shooting of her son was “an accident” were devastating to the chances of convicting George Zimmerman of second degree murder.

Unmasked at last!

I must confess, I love this quote and the post that generated it. I love it because a race-baiting scholar who later defenders cannot credibly claim didn’t write what he meant, has confirmed what I have argued in multiple posts, in the course of also validating my assessment that Fulton’s comment was itself unethical, though not for the reasons Dr. Watkins objects to it.

In the rest of his post, Watkins confirms my assessment of Fulton’s irresponsible and despicable willingness to stir up hate toward Zimmerman. Continue reading

Clarifications, Retractions, Excuses and Lies: The Low Art of Pretending You Didn’t Mean What You Said

A figure in the public eye says something that appears sincere but that leads to negative conclusions about the speaker? Well. there are many options:

1. The speaker can stand by his or her words, and take the consequences.

2. The speaker can regret the words, express remorse, apologize, and ask forgiveness.

3. The speaker can accept the criticism and agree that he or she meant what he said, but state that, upon listening to the criticism, state that he or she no longer feels that way, and would not say the same thing today.

4. The speaker can try to say that the original statement wasn’t intended to mean what anyone hearing the words would naturally think they meant, making a plausible claim that the original statement was mis-worded.

5. The speaker can deny that he or she said the words, even, in some cases, though it was on tape.

6. The speaker can say that the words were taken “out of context,” as they sometimes are, as in Shirley Sherrod’s case, when subsequent comments at the same event changed the meaning of the quote, but were edited out.

7. The speaker can say he was joking, as Senator John Kerry tried to do after he suggested that if you don’t study hard and end up ignorant, you’ll be in the military fighting with all the other dummies, or as Professor Charles Ogletree has claimed regarding his statement that a video of President Obama hugging a radical law school professor when he was a student was hidden during the 2008 campaign.

8.The speaker can say that the statement is “no longer operative”, as Newt Gingrich did after a televised interview earlier this year. Continue reading

Trayvon Martin’s Mother Says That The Killing of Her Son Was An Accident. Well, That’s Certainly A Generous and Reasonable Thing For Her To—Wait, WHAT???

Great. Thanks for that statement, Sybrina. Now look what you've done to my head!

You think the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck is almost done? Ha! I would love for you to be right, but the signs are not promising:

  • Yesterday, the special prosecutor ended the suspense and announced that Zimmerman would be charged, putting a sock in the collective mouths of activists who claimed that the case was already closed. That was nice, but it also allowed Al Sharpton to claim that it was the demonstrations, the threats and the public outcry that forced that outcome. This is bad in three ways:

1.) It suggests that the U.S. justice system can be manipulated by mob rule;

2.) It tells the public that any citizen might be arrested, not because law enforcement believes it has a legitimate case, but because his rights have been balanced against other political and popular factors and found to be dispensable; and

3.) He may be right. Angela Corey, who made the decision to charge Zimmerman without a grand jury, strongly denied Sharpton’s point, and we should all hope she was being truthful.

  • But she almost certainly over-charged. Again, with a second degree murder charge, she is saying that there was no self-defense and that Zimmerman shot Trayvon out of spontaneous anger, animus or other cause that does not include any excuse or legally recognized mitigating factor. Here’s hope again: I hope she has sufficient evidence to support this. Otherwise, she has set everyone up for another round of mob fury and even violence, when Zimmerman is released by the judge who must rule on the “Stand Your Ground” law’s application to Zimmerman before trial, or when a jury finds that the evidence doesn’t support the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Unethical: if Corey took this path  intentionally to take the city and state off the hook, guaranteeing that a judge would take the heat, and everyone could attack the judiciary for following the law, since that is the current fad. Unethical: if she overcharged to give the jury the unenviable job of freeing Zimmerman, since people are used to blaming Florida juries. (See: Anthony, Casey) Requiring less suspicion is the theory, advanced by some defense lawyers, that Corey is over-charging to put leverage on Zimmerman (he will be facing life imprisonment) and squeeze him to agree to a lesser charge, like manslaughter. Prosecutors are not supposed to charge citizens with crimes they know they can’t prove in trial; it is professional misconduct. I know, Jack McCoy used to do it all the time on Law and Order. So do too many prosecutors. It’s still unethical.
  • Zimmerman promptly turned himself in, which means that his blabber-mouth lawyers were even more unethical than I thought they were, suggesting that Zimmerman was on the run and out of state when, obviously, he wasn’t. George is well rid of these two.

If this wasn’t enough to prove that the Trayvon train wreck was still rolling, Sybrina Fulton, the dead teen’s mother, weighed in with this jaw-dropper: Continue reading