COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Chief Assistant District Attorney Sheneka Terry was sworn in Wednesday morning as acting DA in a small ceremony.
Terry will fill in for District Attorney Mark Jones, who was suspended on Monday by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
Jones is facing a nine-count indictment, alleging criminal misconduct in his first eight months in office. He will be arraigned next week and could go to trial as early as next month.
With her family and a small crowd looking on, Terry was sworn in by Chief Superior Court Judge Gil McBride in his Government Center courtroom.
Terry becomes the first African American to assume the duties of district attorney in Muscogee County. She will control prosecutions in the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.
Terry has been on maternity leave since July and came off that leave early to assume her new duties.
She says she will focus on staffing issues as she moves into this temporary role. There are currently seven vacancies for assistant district attorneys. At full staff, the office has 29 lawyers, making it one of the largest law firms in the city.
“What my focus has always been, even as the chief, is staffing,” Terry said. “So, I am continuing to work on filling the vacancies we have for assistant district attorneys, trying to recruit talented attorneys to come into the circuit.”
She wants prosecutors with experience.
“I am especially looking for those who have experience in murder cases, child molestation cases, sex crimes,” she said. “And, the way we move forward is to bring those bright attorneys in and jump on those cases.”
She held an all-staff meeting late Tuesday.
“My biggest concern with the staff is everybody remains focused on the mission at hand,” she said. “And I as I said before, the mission is getting into court, making sure the citizens remain confident in the system, in the DA’s office, and ensuring we are bringing those older cases to trial as quickly as possible.”
Terry was raised by military parents and currently serves as a JAG officer in Georgia Army National Guard unit based at Fort Benning.
She has been deployed to Kosovo and says her military training will serve her well in her role.
“There is a certain calm that comes with Army training,” Terry said. “There is a certain ability to adapt and maneuver as need be in what can seem like a chaotic situation. And there is also the ability to calm others in that same situation.”
McBride says the expectation is that Terry runs the office and move cases.
“I have had the pleasure to work with Mrs. Terry since she joined the district attorney’s office in 2017,” McBride said. “She has tried cases before me both in Muscogee County and Harris County. So, we already have that relationship intact.”
McBride said that Terry is in a good position to move cases forward.
“It is the hope and the expectation of our judges in which the district attorney’s office prosecutes that we will stick to the court schedule and the normal calendar of cases and move forward with trials, I believe starting next week,” he said.