What a difference a year (and four months) makes! District Attorney Tracy Graham-Lawson has already tried more cases than former D.A. Jewel Scott did while in office (zero cases tried), successfully removing criminals from our streets.
“In 2009 we had a 15% increase in incoming cases as compared to 2008, yet we closed with 17% fewer cases than when I took office,” explains Lawson. “All [2004-2008 cases] that were unindicted when I took over are now either indicted or accused, have been dismissed or plead guilty.” These include Gerald Benn who shot a cop (sentenced to 120 years); William Cunningham for poisoning his kids using Campbell’s soup (100 years); and the Rainbow House embezzlement (20 years), among many other cases where defendants eventually plead guilty.
The D.A.’s goal for 2010 is to get all incarcerated felons indicted within 90 days and non-incarcerated felons within nine months, so all are hopefully completed within one year of the crime.
The D.A.’s office also offers a Pre-Trial intervention program which has admitted 500 nonviolent first time felony offenders, and none have committed another crime after participating. “150 [completed the program] and we put $66,000 into the General Fund for the county,” says Lawson. “My predecessor had a program yet $0 went into the General Fund (requirement of the statute).” Additionally, Lawson’s victim/witness unit (5 employees) has helped over 5,000 victims/witnesses solve crimes.
Our DA’s office has also created an anti-armed robbery campaign, which will feature a movie starring kids. “It doesn’t matter if a gun is fake or real, loaded or not, or any other offensive weapon – you get 10 years minimum and up to life in prison. I started this because I am tired of watching these young men go away because when they get out they will be unemployable and will have missed finishing school, going to college, their first job, buying their first home, getting married and starting a family,” says Lawson. “I can’t un-ring the bell – if they do it we are going to come after them and make them go to prison BUT if we can prevent it in the first place . . . that would be great.”
The anti-armed robbery movie premiere will be held at 6:00 PM on May 3 at the Clayton County Performing Art Center. Although aimed at young people and their parents, anyone may attend and admission is FREE!