Fulton County Commissioners have voted to spend money to hire 50 additional positions to deal with a backlog of cases in the district attorney’s office.
District Attorney Fani Willis says the office fell behind with cases at the start of the pandemic. She and several commissioners say the office “shut down” in March of 2020 under previous District Attorney Paul Howard.
The backlog has been compounded, Willis says, by an increase in crime. In an impassioned plea to commissioners, Willis says there has been a 48% surge in murders in Fulton County in the last year.
“What happens if I don’t get what I need? The reality is, we don’t get to as many cases, we half do our jobs, we skip steps and we’re all in danger,” Willis said. “I’m not supposed to say that, but that’s the truth.”
Willis says there are more than 200 murder defendants who have not yet been indicted. More than 50 of them must be indicted by late September or they must be offered bail, Willis says, whether they deserve it or not.
The county has provided additional money in recent months to help with the backlog, but Willis and commissioners say it hasn’t been enough.
“Money was wasted under the previous administration,” said Democratic Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman said, referring to
former District Attorney Howard. “Who is going to be responsible for that?”
The new hires, which will be made in November and December, will cost the county $780,000 this year and $5 million dollars a year going forward. Willis says the money will only go for new hires, not for pay raises.
“This reality has consequences,” Willis said. “I’m coming to you begging for nothing for Fani Willis and everything for our community.”
The resolution was approved on a 5-0 vote.
“Crime is not a partisan issue,” Republican Commissioner Liz Hausmann said. “We want to fix this problem, we want our community to be safe, we’re working together toward that goal.”