Race for SW Circuit D.A. - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Race for SW Circuit D.A.

October 13, 2004

Albany-- The Southwestern Judicial Circuit District Attorney is finishing her first term, but a Lee County lawyer wants the job.

Both cite case backlog as a problem they want to fix and talk about a sensational murder trial that rocked Americus this summer.

"It's been an adventure. It has been full of challenges."  Challenge number one for District Attorney Cecilia Cooper: a 5,000 case backlog she's whittled down to a mere 150.

But, she is still not satisfied, "We are going to keep working towards the goal of having cases completed within 12 months. We are really close."

But, one case that didn't wait long--the murder trail of babysitter Jennifer Tanner. Cooper says, "It certainly was not a slam dunk case when we took it. But, if you only prosecute the slam dunks you aren't doing your job."

Tanner was tried in August for killing 8-month-old Haley Bone. Cooper says they talked to a state expert on shaken baby cases, "We went forward with the best evidence and the best advice we could get."

A mistrial was declared after the jury couldn't reach a verdict. The D.A. is still deciding whether Tanner will be retried.

Challenger Robert Perrine says, "That is something that should really be taken into consideration that 11 Sumter County citizens voted not guilty."

Lee County lawyer Robert Perrine says he can run the D.A.'s office more efficiently and make sure the worthy cases are prosecuted, "I have some experience as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney which I think is good to know both sides of the system."

A system he says Cooper is not working well enough.

Perrine claims it can take two to three years for a case to go to trial. To correct the backlog, Perrine says "That is going to take instead of us working hard on old cases, it will take us working hard on the new cases and eventually the next couple years we will be in a position of trying cases in 6 to 12 months--90 percent of the cases."

Both candidates say they have a plan to continue shrinking the case backlog and to ensure justice in the district.

Robert Perrine spent three years as a prosecutor in the Dougherty D.A.'s office before going into private practice.

Posted at 4:26 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com

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