Hello, everyone! It has been several months since I’ve written a column. My apologies for not being able to post. The past few months have been a whirlwind. My offices have returned to trying cases and it has kept us all very busy. I also added quite a bit of staff to tackle the backlog. Between training, administrative duties, and court, my time was stretched too thin. But as the saying goes…I’m back!
With a new year inevitably comes New Year’s goals or resolutions. I try not to make too many of these and keep it to one or two. One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2022 is to direct some of my attention back to these articles and to a monthly radio broadcast. The Editors were kind enough to give me that opportunity and I am very grateful to have this avenue to communicate with you.
I should start by commending my staff, our Judges, Court Services, and the various County officials who helped make sure jury trials could proceed. While the courtrooms may have looked different, we were able to have cases heard without any significant consequences involving COVID.
Across the circuit, we tried cases involving murder, aggravated assault, drug trafficking, and child molestation. I was pleased with the outcomes of those trials and the hard work by the attorneys and staff who presented them.
I will be spotlighting some of the cases we tried last year and will be trying this year. We’ll start with one case tried in Fayette County.
Daquan Gillett was murdered after a squabble arose at a park in Fayette County. A group of high school seniors gathered there to have a water gun fight. What should have been some harmless fun turned deadly when Clayton County resident Sean Allen arrived with a handgun to confront Daquan and his brother. Words were exchanged and Allen and Gillett fought with their fists. The fight appeared to be over when Allen then approached Gillett, shooting him in the back of the head and the leg.
The Defendant, Allen claimed self-defense. Multiple eyewitnesses testified and there was surveillance video of much of the incident as well. The trial lasted a week. The jury deliberated Thursday afternoon, and all-day Friday. The Judge had them return on Sunday, December 18th. After many nerve-wracking hours of deliberation, the jury reached a decision. Allen was found guilty of murder and aggravated assault and sentenced to life in prison.
The case was tried by a tough as nails prosecutor, Monique Harris. This was Monique’s first murder case. She never gave up fighting for Daquan and his senseless murder, despite the challenges she faced. Sometimes, in this job, the fight is just as important as the outcome. Monique stood firm and fought hard for this conviction. She stood for what was right. I couldn’t be prouder. Senior Assistant District Attorney Dan Hiatt was her second chair and showed exceptional leadership throughout the trial.
I know firsthand the toll trials like this take on my Assistants. They eat, breathe, and sleep these cases. These trials take them away from their children, spouses, and daily lives. They do it because they love it and still believe that we can make a difference in this world. I’m lucky to have each one of them on my team.
In this brand-new year of 2022, I believe great things lie ahead for our office as we fight to protect our community and punish those who want to harm it. I look forward to keeping you informed throughout 2022. Until next time, stay safe and be kind to one another!