Irene covers crime and the courts — name an interesting local case and she’s probably covered it — and she says what keeps the job so fascinating is the trials. She loves them. Ask her, and Irene will explain how trials “condense all of human emotion.”
“Going to court everyday,” she says, “is better than Broadway — it’s like having a front-row seat on human drama. You cannot make this stuff up.”
There’s never been a shortage of good material. Irene has covered all the big New York mob cases of the last generation, including the trials of John Gotti, and many of the big police stories, including the Knapp Commission, the infamous Dirty 30, and more recently, the torture of Abner Louima and the shooting of Amadou Diallo.
She was there in the courtroom when John Lennon’s killer was tried — she remembers Mark David Chapman entering court each day carrying his copy of “Catcher in the Rye.” In the 70’s Irene sat next to Martha Mitchell — both were knitting — as Mitchell’s husband, John, and several other Watergate figures were tried here in New York.
Irene covered the Murder at the Met case — when a violinist was killed by a stagehand during intermission of a performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov. She’s gone to Virginia twice — first for the trial of Lorena Bobbit, then for the trial of Marv Albert. She traveled to West Palm Beach for the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith; and of course, she covered the big one — the OJ Simpson case, from start to finish.
The Cornell family has been in the news business for many years. Her father, Cameron Cornell, worked in newspapers, radio and TV in Oklahoma, Savannah, Los Angeles and New York. Her uncle, George Cornell, was the religion editor at the Associated Press for more than 40 years. She often sits nex to her sister in court. Christine Cornell is a well-known courtroom sketch artist.
She worked her way through Hunter College as a copy girl at WMCA in New York where her father was the News Director. His successor, Barry Beere, was “the first to shove me out the door and say ‘go cover a story,'” Irene says. She must have done a good job, because after that, she was on the air every day.
During that time, Irene met her late husband, Danny Meenan, who was a reporter at WMCA for 25 years. She also discovered her love for courtroom drama. The first trial she covered was that of Alice Crimmins. All these years later, Irene still describes her in reporters’ shorthand as “the attractive red-haired cocktail waitress convicted of murdering her two children.” In 1970, when Irene made the move to WCBS after eight years at ‘MCA, she arrived just in time for the second Crimmins trial. It, too, ended in conviction, and Irene has been on New York’s crime and court beat ever since.
She is a producer’s favorite kind of reporter. She can spot a promising story a mile away, she’s an absolutely wonderful storyteller, and she’s never more excited than when she’s calling the desk to relate the latest tale she’s dug up from New York’s darkside — soon to be delivered to listeners in her own inimitable way.
Two of Irene’s children have been in the news business. Daughter Kati Cornell covered federal courts in New York for the New York Post and is now communications director for NYC’s special narcotics prosecutor – Bridget Brennan. Her stepson, Danny Meenan, Jr., is a television news producer in Australia. Her influence does not end with her own children. At least one young reporter has been heard to wonder aloud: How would Irene cover this story?
The trial of a Queens woman accused of murdering her ex-cop husband continued Friday.
Jury selection got under way in the trial of a political consultant charged with stealing more than $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged two men with making $2.6 million in illegal profits on insider stock trades.
Prosecutors said Menashe Glanz filed false documents to get subsidies for an apartment that his brother lived in.
Heidi Jones, a former TV meteorologist, admitted today that she had made up claims of being repeatedly attacked by a stranger on the city streets. The allegations sparked an extensive investigation before police said she told them she’d invented the story to get attention.
Former Port Authority painter Mario Mastellone has already spent two and-a-half years in prison for defrauding the 9/11 victims compensation fund.
Former New York City cop Kenneth Moreno, found not guilty in the rape of a fashion executive, is off the hook on a heroin possession charge.
A former close friend of John Gotti Jr. who confessed to conspiring to kill three people was freed from jail after helping law enforcement jail 80 members of organized crime.
A New York City man sought to travel to Pakistan so he could die as a martyr by fighting jihad against U.S. forces, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Ten years after the fiery collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11, Lower Manhattan came close to becoming an armed camp once again.
The last of four men convicted in an FBI sting operation was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison by a judge who said she was not proud of her government for creating the plot to bomb synagogues and shoot down military planes with missiles.
Louis Scala, the accused leader of a Staten Island drug trafficking ring that peddled over 40,000 oxycodone pills out of the back of an ice cream truck, has pleaded guilty.
A serial shop burglar has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing thousands of dollars in cash and goods from a half-dozen Manhattan businesses, ranging from a pizzeria to an optical shop.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis has already decided the city’s firefighter entrance exam discriminated against minorities.
Four New York City men are facing drug-trafficking charges after investigators seized a record-breaking shipment of methamphetamine in New Jersey.