COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — It has been more than two months since former District Attorney Mark Jones was removed from office after pleading guilty to four counts of public corruption.
Governor Brian Kemp will appoint the new DA and that person will serve until 2024 when the office will be on the ballot.
The backlog of pending criminal cases is growing. And the need for a permanent district attorney could not be clearer.
There is still no name on the District Attorney’s office door.
But that could change in the coming weeks. Gov. Brian Kemp has asked for nominations to replace Mark Jones, who was removed from office after a public corruption conviction.
Acting District Attorney Sheneka Terry says she plans to seek the office she has held on an interim basis since Oct. 4TH. She had three things she considered, not the least of which is the backlog of cases. In November there were 289 major felony cases awaiting trial in Muscogee County. That’s the state’s seven deadly sins — ranging from murder to aggravated child molestation.
“First things first, I had to consider my family because it’s an office we will all undertake,” she said on Monday. “Second, I had to consider the backlog of cases and the uphill battle this office will face in trying to get all of those cases to trial or resolved in some other manner.”
There is also another thing she had to consider.
“The third thing is the other employees in the office and if I could be the leader they would need to clear the backlog,” she said.
Terry says she will take it one step at a time and can not say if she will commit to seek election when the office is put on the ballot.
Judge Bill Smith spent 18 years in the District Attorney’s office before becoming a Superior Court judge. He was a chief assistant for seven years and the DA for 11 when he was appointed a judge in 1988. He served on the bench until he took senior status in 2002.
Here’s the question Smith is uniquely qualified to answer. Because of the previous DA’s conviction and prison sentence which he is currently serving, does that add another level of importance to this?
“Of course, it does,” Smith said. “As I said, we have been in disarray for over a year now. And we have been through this for the first time in the 200-year history of the circuit. There is no precedent for it.”
Smith was the lead prosecutor in the Columbus Stocking Strangler case in which Carlton Gary was convicted and put to death.
And Smith says the current unprecedented situation calls for strong leadership.
“I am confident that whoever the governor appoints – man, woman, black, white – will be a strong leader and administrator,” Smith said. “But also, a trial lawyer. We need a lawyer who can go in there themself and try the heavy cases.”
The deadline for nominations closes on Friday. A spokesperson in the governor’s office said that they are currently in the due diligence phase. There is no timetable for an appointment.