Famed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz is not a big fan of the prosecutor in the George Zimmerman murder case, Florida State Attorney Angela Corey. Dershowitz believes the affidavit filed against Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin was sloppy and duplicitous, leaving out vital information that was known to the prosecution, but unhelpful to the case it wanted to build.
As Dershowitz restated his criticism on Tuesday, “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.” He compares this to Zimmerman’s false statements about his financial situation, which got his bail revoked.
It turns out that professional disdain between Corey and Dershowitz is mutual, but she chose a rather remarkable way to express it. According to an angry Dershowitz column at Newsmax, Corey actually called the dean of Harvard Law to complain about him. She never got through to the dean, but she went on “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.”
According to Dershowitz, Corey displayed a very weak grasp of the First Amendment and academic freedom:
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.
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.
Dershowitz declares he is not the least bit intimidated:
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.
Fortunately, truth is a defense to such charges.
I will continue to criticize prosecutors when their actions warrant criticism, to praise them when their actions deserve praise, and to comment on ongoing cases in the court of public opinion.
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.
Dershowitz doesn’t say how he was given the details of this phone call, or whether it was recorded. The Orlando Sentinel reports it was unable to obtain comments from either Corey’s office or Harvard Law School on the matter.