District Attorney John Herbert “Herb” Cranford Jr. presented an update from his office at the LaGrange-Troup Chamber of Commerce’s monthly breakfast on Tuesday. He also gave chamber members an overview of what the prosecution is doing.
“I love being the district attorney,” said Cranford. “It is a long route that I cover with five counties. I really feel like this is what I am best suited for and I need to be in this position. I enjoy it and I really feel like we have a huge impact on our communities. “
Cranford noted that most district attorneys have a seal on the office that best represents them.
“My instinct for this sort of thing is that sometimes it’s just not real and spurious,” said Cranford. “When I decided to develop one that would best represent our mission statement, I was very happy with what we have.”
Cranford said the background of the seal was the Georgia flag because the office represented the state.
“We are the state lawyers and we will try to do what is best for the state and the community you represent,” said Cranford. “In the foreground of the seal is Lady Justice. She is holding the scales of justice and has her eyes blindfolded, which indicates impartiality. “
Cranford noted that they made her a center because they strive to treat everyone fairly, regardless of the person’s background, race, or wealth.
Cranford added that it is the district attorney’s job to bring justice to the community and victims of crime, to uphold the law and to uphold the trust of the people they serve.
Cranford stated that the DA office is prosecuting all criminal activity in the Coweta Judicial Circuit, which includes five counties, including Troup County. The office also prosecutes misdemeanors in Heard County and Meriwether Counties as they do not have a separate state court.
“It can be a really difficult job because we deal with the absolute worst things in our community every day,” said Cranford. “Every day we deal with children who have become victims in a way that I don’t want to convey at breakfast. We are dealing with victims who have been treated horribly by their spouse. “
Cranford added that his employees take an emotional toll every day but do so to protect and serve the community.
“Because of our responsibilities and the weight of our decisions, I think it’s really important that we strive to make these decisions with a degree of humility,” said Cranford. “We don’t think we’re better or smarter than anyone else. We’re not afraid to use our discretion to take someone’s leeway if we think it’s deserved.”
He said his office is constantly prepared and equipped to handle some of the toughest cases.
“We are ready to fight for victims and the most difficult cases are victim cases, especially sex crimes, child cases where the only witness is often the victim,” said Cranford. “It’s a matter of [whether] They have the evidence to back this up enough to prove that what they said is beyond doubt true. These are very difficult cases as you have to decide if you have enough evidence to put this child or victim, this woman, through a re-traumatization of a legal process where a defense attorney will be required to essentially act her as Calling liars and being aggressively interrogated. “
On an annual average, the public prosecutor’s office pursues criminal prosecution in around 80 to 85 percent of all cases received.
Cranford said prosecutors will turn down a case if they believe they cannot unequivocally prove the crime.
“I think that’s a healthy number,” said Cranford. “We refuse to prosecute 15 to 20 percent because we just don’t feel we have evidence. I don’t think you want a prosecutor who just takes every single file and throws it against the wall and sees what’s stuck. We are very thoughtful and consider what kind of cases we are pursuing. “
Cranford said the Coweta Judicial Circuit has the fourth highest criminal case among the 29 counties in Georgia. He found that the active case number increased by more than 80 percent because COVID-19 and the court did not attend the session.
In Troup County, it’s up 78 percent.
“I never see that if we keep the status quo we will break away from that,” said Cranford. “There will be a backlog unless something important changes soon.”
He hopes that the courts will resume soon and that they can again tackle their case burden with full force.