5 Georgia criminal justice storylines to watch in 2023

Massage Business Shootings-Lawmakers
Members of Congress and Georgia state representatives pose for a photo outside Gold Spa in Atlanta, one of the businesses hit during the March 16 shootings, Sunday, March 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Sudhin Thanawala)

1. Atlanta spa shootings trial to begin. 

Attorneys for Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in the Atlanta spa shootings case, are seeking to dismiss the death penalty as he awaits trial on multiple murder charges for the March 2021 massacre. His trial was set to begin in January, but it has now been delayed for a second time due to scheduling conflicts. The Fulton County judge in Long’s case is also presiding over the criminal trial of Atlanta rapper Young Thug. This will be the first time Georgia’s new hate crime law will apply to a Fulton County case.

2. Will there be more interest from Atlanta City Hall in reforming policing? 

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and the Atlanta Police Department are under pressure as parents grapple with an outbreak of gun violence involving youth. At the same time, advocates are pushing to shift resources from policing to other social services. 

3. What hot-button issues will U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, tackle next? 

In 2022, Ossoff and a group of bipartisan legislators introduced bills addressing unreported deaths at U.S. jails, sexual abuses, understaffing and criminal misconduct by staff. 

4. What’s next for “Cop City”? 

Construction is set to start at a controversial property near the site for Atlanta’s proposed public safety training center dubbed “Cop City.” Five demonstrators were charged with domestic terrorism in mid-December after a clash with law enforcement. Gov. Brian Kemp has vowed to make more arrests of people protesting the site.

5. Will officer-involved shootings continue to rise?

There were a record number of 112 officer-involved shootings in Georgia in 2022. While experts point to a variety of reasons for the increase — nationwide and in Georgia — in officer-involved shootings, there are no easy solutions to reverse the trend.

This is part of WABE’s Storylines To Watch In 2023 series. Click here to see which storylines WABE reporters are watching on their beats — including arts and culture, education, the environment, health, housing, immigration and politics — so you’re in-the-know on what the year may bring.