Injustice in Focus

Archive for January 2012

Thank you from Cristian Fernandez

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Cristian Fernandez thanks supporters

On January 14, Cristian spent his thirteenth birthday in the confines of Duval Regional Detention Center, where he is being held awaiting trial. A Facebook page was started by Cristian’s staunchest supporter and advocate, Melissa Higgins, in the weeks leading up to his birthday. Cristian received many cards and his thank you reply was heartfelt and touching, especially considering the living hell he is enduring.

Cristian’s next hearing is scheduled for February 8 and I am sure he would appreciate letters of support leading up to that day and his trial on February 27. This child is being railroaded by the heartless State Attorney Angela Corey, so please take a moment to familiarize yourself with his plight.

Thank you.

Cristian Fernandez
Duval Regional Detention Center
1241 East 8th Street
Jacksonville, FL 32206-4099

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Written by Injustice in Focus

January 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Rally for Cristian Fernandez | Amnesty International USA

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Cristian Fernandez

Please join us on February 8th, 2012 at 7am, in front of the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida (330 East Bay Street), in a peaceful protest against the handling of Cristian Fernandez in the adult justice system. Cristian was barely 12 years old when he was charged as an adult in the death of his brother. If he is convicted on February 27th he faces life without parole.

The case of Cristian Fernandez has attracted local, state, national and even international attention through a petition drive sponsored by Change.org. Almost 180,000 people and organizations signed a petition asking State Attorney Angela Corey to reverse the decision to try Cristian as an adult. Angela Corey has since proclaimed she does not “prosecute by petition”.

You may also contact us at savecristian@yahoo.com if you are interested in attending the rally on February 8th. There is also additional information at savecristian.org.

The rally coincides with a 9am hearing at the courthouse where the judge will rule on motions filed by the defense.

Event starts at 7am.

Duval County Courthouse

330 East Bay Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202
United States

Link to article

Written by Injustice in Focus

January 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Is Angela Corey Above the Law?

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Despite State Attorney Angela Corey’s methodology having been the subject of public debate even before she took office, news of yet another questionable exploit has raised the ire of many.

On December 21 the anticipated festive spirit of her office’s Christmas soiree was somewhat soured when she, along with Mike Weinstein and Mark Borello, chose to take advantage of those in attendance by having them fill out campaign petitions for their respective re-election bids. Many of those at the function felt as though they were being cajoled and felt uncomfortable, given that they were under the impression they were there to celebrate the festive season and the year’s end. Some even worried that their jobs may be in jeopardy should they fail to comply.

It has been suggested by Corey that it was to avoid having to pay a campaign filing fee, yet some see their motivation as being more specious. Whatever the reason for this dubious initiative, the legality of it has understandably confounded many an observer. It is, at the very least, a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Florida Statute 104.31 reads, in part:

104.31 Political activities of state, county, and municipal officers and employees.—

(1) No officer or employee of the state, or of any county or municipality thereof, except as hereinafter exempted from provisions hereof, shall:

(a) Use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or a nomination of office or coercing or influencing another person’s vote or affecting the result thereof.

The penalty for breaching the aforementioned statute reads thusly;

(3) Any person violating the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

By attempting to circumvent the payment of the campaign filing fee, Corey has breached Florida Statute 112.313 (6) which reads;

112.313 Standards of conduct for public officers, employees of agencies, and local government attorneys.—

(1) DEFINITION.—As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, the term “public officer” includes any person elected or appointed to hold office in any agency, including any person serving on an advisory body.

(6) MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION.—No public officer, employee of an agency, or local government attorney shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself, herself, or others. This section shall not be construed to conflict with s. 104.31.

So, how should Corey be reprimanded and what, if any, penalty should be imposed? That which was meted out to C. David Weed, Executive Assistant Public Defender for the 11th Judicial District of Florida whose four violations of Statute 104.31 (1) (a) saw him fined $2000 ($500 on each of the four counts) or something harsher? Florida Statute 112.52 reads, in part;

112.52 Removal of a public official when a method is not otherwise provided.—

(1)  When a method for removal from office is not otherwise provided by the State Constitution or by law, the Governor may by executive order suspend from office an elected or appointed public official, by whatever title known, who is indicted or informed against for commission of any felony, or for any misdemeanor arising directly out of his or her official conduct or duties, and may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension, not to extend beyond the term.

It is interesting to note that Statute 112.52 should also be applicable to yet another indiscretion of Corey’s on December 6 of 2011. For how long can the region’s highest credentialed enforcer of the law continue to avoid disciplinary action for her indiscretions? Is this the person whom citizens of Duval, Nassau and Clay Counties should be re-electing when her flagrant disregard for the law is becoming habitual?

Complaints regarding Corey’s behavior can be filed by either completing this form, contacting the Commission on Ethics at (850) 488-7864 or by mail at Post Office Drawer 15709, Tallahassee, Florida 32317-5709. Additionally, a petition to have her removed from office can be signed here.

Written by Injustice in Focus

January 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Rally for Cristian Fernandez – February 8, 2012

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Flyer designed for the event

Save Cristian Fernandez is looking for people who are able to attend and take part in a peaceful demonstration in support of Cristian, which is scheduled to commence at 7.00am on February 8th. The event will be taking place at the Duval County Courthouse, 330 East Bay Street, Jacksonville, Florida. More information can be found here or by contacting the organizer at savecristian@yahoo.com
Thank you.

Written by Injustice in Focus

January 12, 2012 at 9:27 am

Posted in News

Can Matt Shirk Save Cristian Fernandez?

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Angela Corey and Matt Shirk at his campaign launch

Picture this. You are a twelve-year-old sitting in jail charged with first degree murder, a crime you maintain that you did not commit, and the public defender assigned the task of vindicating you has too close an association with the person wanting you prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

It would not exactly instil you with overwhelming confidence, would it?

Such is the situation for Cristian Fernandez, a child whose future is resting in the hands of 4th Judicial Circuit Public Defender Matt Shirk. Although Cristian may be oblivious to the relationship between Shirk and State Attorney Angela Corey, those who aren’t view it as a conflict of interest.

Their association has been a long and interesting one. From Shirk completing his internship “working under the direct tutelage of Angela Corey” to publicly supporting each other as Republicans seeking re-election to their respective offices. Shirk is North Florida’s first Republican to be elected to the office he now holds.

On December 6, 2011, he launched a fund raising campaign at the home of Republican money man Mike Hightower which was co-hosted by none other than Angela Corey. How, or why, Shirk did not see his ill conceived notion to have Corey present as a conflict of interest escapes me, particularly at a time when Corey was doing her utmost to have Shirk accept a plea deal on behalf of his client.

The man Shirk surprisingly defeated in the 2008 election, Bill White, is on record as saying “Both should have known better to have her displayed as a co-host. It damages the image of the Public Defender’s Office. You should be thinking of those things when you are in public office.” This point was clearly lost on Shirk and, not for the first time, his judgement has been brought into question.

In January of 2009, Shirk joined Corey in visiting Nassau and Clay counties for the latter’s swearing in ceremonies. Given the disparate duties for which they were elected, it quite rightly raised more than a few eyebrows.

In February of the same year the President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, John Wesley Hall, referred to Shirk as someone “who cleaned out the experienced death penalty lawyers to save money, a public defender who ran with the endorsement of the police union and a personal friend of the DA on a campaign to save money on public defense” adding “Doesn’t it violate the Sixth Amendment for an accused person to have a public defender who was elected with an inherent conflict of interest of endorsements by the police union and promises(essentially) to not be zealous in representing indigent clients?” Corey herself was endorsed by the very same police union during her campaign, making Hall’s observations difficult to counter.

To Shirk’s credit, he has shown much compassion and an understanding of the “extenuating circumstances” surrounding Cristian’s case for which Corey has shown complete disregard. He is also to be commended for believing in Cristian’s innocence and rejecting the State’s deal which involved a plea to second degree murder. Yet, like the Jacksonville media, he is remiss in not correcting the misinformation disseminated by Corey since Cristian’s arrest in March of last year.

Matt Shirk's post on Facebook

Supporters of Cristian have been voicing their concerns regarding the defense and its handling of his case on social media internet sites. The Save Cristian Fernandez page on Facebook is one such site, with one supporter suggesting “good lawyers could definitely win this” and another alluding to the perceived conflict of interest when saying “[there] must be one lawyer out there you can trust”.

Shirk posted a genial response and offered supporters the opportunity to email him with questions which he is “allowed to answer”. He then tried to allay the fears of many by proclaiming “I think people will be surprised when they hear ALL the true facts”. For Cristian’s sake, we can only hope he and his team have left no stone unturned in their search for the truth.

Fortunately, the State’s case is not a particularly strong one, evidenced by Corey seeking an indictment on a new charge of sexual battery when her hopes for a plea deal dissipated.  A motion was filed by the defense last Friday seeking dismissal of a “defective indictment” and a plea of not guilty was entered on Cristian’s behalf.  Judge Mallory Cooper set a new hearing date for February 8.

A petition asking the Court to reverse its decision to have Cristian tried as an adult now has over 178,000 signatures from people showing their support. Cristian will turn thirteen this Saturday, January 14 and a ‘Cards for Cristian Fernandez’ page has been created on Facebook to offer him “comfort and hope”. Cards can be mailed to:

Cristian Fernandez
Duval Regional Detention Center
1241 East 8th Street
Jacksonville, FL 32206-4099

Written by Injustice in Focus

January 11, 2012 at 9:19 am

Posted in Juvenile Justice

An Evil Mind: Angela Corey

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The case of twelve-year-old Cristian Fernandez limped frustratingly onward again this past Friday, January 6th, with his indictment on a charge of sexual battery. The latest charge is in addition to that of Murder in the First Degree and Aggravated Child Abuse for which he was indicted for the death of his two-year-old stepbrother, David Galarriago, on March 14 of 2011. It is alleged to have involved another (as yet unnamed) stepbrother.

According to The Florida Times-Union “the state has been preparing the sexual battery case since last summer” and that “prosecutors delayed seeking the indictment at the request of the defense during plea negotiations” which the defense rejected, opting instead to go to trial. Just why the defense requested the delay is unclear and my efforts to seek clarification from Public Defender Matt Shirk, who is handling Cristian’s case, have gone unanswered.

Despite claims to the contrary, the latest charge was indeed used as a bargaining chip by the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) during plea deal negotiations. Assistant State Attorney Mark Caliel admitted as much, saying “When negotiations broke down, we made it clear we were left with no alternative. We can’t ignore our additional victim” which is curious, given that Caliel and the SAO had ignored the additional victim for quite sometime.

State Attorney Angela Corey said on Friday that she has “an obligation to victims of crime to file charges when they can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt” and “without regard to the extenuating circumstances involved with the defendant”. The question is; can they be proven beyond reasonable doubt, other than in Corey’s own mind? I would suggest not.

Her total disregard of these “extenuating circumstances” and Cristian’s needs are palpable, as is her bloody-mindedness in seeking his conviction on all charges. For her to even attempt to suggest she has “compassion for Cristian” is an absurdity. She even goes so far as to eschew one of her very own Episcopalian tenets by saying “it’s not my job to forgive”.

Corey has had constant difficulty in speaking honestly about this case. Last October she erroneously claimed “No one’s ever talked about life in prison. The rumors are rampant about that”. That is a lie when you consider the mandatory penalty for first degree murder in Florida is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

In December she told the media “In the juvenile system, we can only incarcerate or have him contained for not even two years” which again is untrue. The Southern Poverty Law Center corrected her in a recent article stating the juvenile system has “power to detain a child as long as necessary” adding its courts “can retain jurisdiction over children until the age of 21”.

The SAO is still hoping for a resolution to the case prior to trial but that looks unlikely. Cristian will be thirteen years of age when he revisits Duval County Courthouse on February 27th and if convicted, will be the youngest person ever sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in US history.

A petition seeking to have Corey removed from office was started last month, with more than 1200 people  from all parts of the world having signed as of this writing.

Written by Injustice in Focus

January 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Juvenile Justice