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Georgia District Attorneys split on prosecutorial oversight bills in General Assembly

21 Republican District Attorneys say they're in support of it. Democrats and some Republican DAs are against it.

MACON, Ga. — Georgia's prosecutors are split on supporting at legislation now pending under the Gold Dome.

If passed, the legislation would create an eight-person oversight commission with the power to discipline or remove district attorneys or solicitors-general.

Opponents say the bill is targeted toward Democrat prosecutors, particularly the Fulton County DA who is investigating former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 

However, the sponsors argue oversight is needed after two cases involving Republican district attorneys. 

Former Paulding DA Dick Donavan was indicted in 2021 on charges including bribery and violation of oath by a public officer. Then, the former Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson was charged with meddling in the investigation into the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

Now, at least 21 Georgia district attorneys, all of them Republican, have backed the idea of oversight.

"When a District Attorney who is supposed to be a pillar of this community misbehaves, and unfortunately that happens from time to time, I think it's not a bad idea to have a mechanism to hold them in check," T Wright Barksdale said.

Ocmulgee District Attorney T Wright Barksdale signed the letter sent to the sponsors of the bills. 

Barksdale joins at least two other DA's in Central Georgia, DA Tim Vaughn in Oconee Circuit and Bryce Johnson in the Tifton Judicial Circuit who support the bill. 

According to the proposal, this commission would determine if a DA should face discipline if they're found to have mental or physical incapacity, willful and persistent failure to carry out duties, or if they're convicted of a crime of quote moral turpitude. 

"I mean what we're talking about here is if a District Attorney is arrested for felony offense or crime of moral turpitude or making decisions on cases because they have a financial interest and undue bias. I don't understand why anyone would be against that," Barksdale said. 

Several Democratic District Attorneys have spoken out against the legislation including Macon DA Anita Howard.

In a statement to 13WMAZ, Howard says lawmakers are trying to "bully" prosecutors. 

She added politics have no business in courtrooms.

So, who would be on this commission to decide if a DA is disciplined? This is where the bills differ.

The house version would allow the Georgia Supreme Court to appoint all eight. The senate version allows various offices to select members.

The law requires the panel be made up of such as former DAs or solicitor generals, two former assistant DAs, and members appointed by the legislature and the Lieutenant Governor.

Another bill that passed the House and now heads to Senate reduces the number of voters needed to recall a District Attorney.

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