September 2021 – Vol. 1 No. 3

News From Your DA’s Office

Western Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez, serving Athens-Clarke and Oconee Counties

Vol. 1, No. 3 September 2021

As so many elements of normal life in our area return – kids in school, college students back in town and football fans headed into Athens – unfortunately we still have the COVID pandemic to deal with. Please mask up, get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and do what you can to keep yourself and those who count on you safe.

DA Office Investigators:

Key Participants in Local Law Enforcement

Felicia Fortson, Chief Investigator, Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.

Investigators play a vital role in the work of the DA’s office by assisting in the preparation of cases for possible prosecution. Our investigators, led by Chief Investigator Felicia Fortson, conduct surveillance and investigative work in cooperation with law enforcement agencies. They obtain legal documents and law enforcement reports. They locate witnesses, deliver subpoenas, arrange for trial appearances, and interview and obtain statements from witnesses.  DA Office investigators are certified by the State of Georgia’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Council and are sworn as Athens-Clarke County sheriff’s deputies.

A First of Its Kind in Our Area Victims’ Lounge

Victim’s Lounge courtesy of Justice is on the Agenda Fund.

Serving and supporting victims of crime and helping them heal from trauma is one of the most important duties of the DA’s office. As part of that vitally important work, the office is proud to announce the completion of its new Victim’s Lounge which offers victims and their families a secure, comfortable space to get away from the sometimes challenging environment of the courtroom and engage with our staff. The Victims’ Lounge is based on trauma-informed design principles, because creating a safe, warm, and welcoming physical environment is one of the primary components of a trauma-informed program.

The design of the Victims Lounge was a collaborative effort among UGA School of Social Work professor Dr. Adrienne Baldwin-White and the victims’ advocates of the DA’s office. Drawing on Dr. White’s expertise, they worked together on the design of the room, including the selection of colors and furniture.

Thanks to a grant from the Justice is on the Agenda Fund, this important work was completed without the expenditure of any taxpayer dollars. The Justice is on the Agenda Fund was created by DA Gonzalez to support the work of the office when additional resources are needed. In addition to training on cutting-edge criminal justice policies for DA’s office staff and special projects such as the Victim’s Lounge, the Fund also supports organizations providing positive opportunities for the youth of our community. For more information on how you can contribute to this important work, please email DA’s Office Director of External Relations David Lyle at david.lyle@accgov.com.

In the Courtroom

The people of the DA’s office are its greatest resource, and leaders in Georgia and nationally are recognizing their talents and contributions.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Mikaela Henderson has been selected to participate in Prosecution Leaders of Now, a highly selective executive education and leadership opportunity that brings together early to mid-career prosecutors from across the country. A core part of the program is a 12-week distance leadership program hosted by Stanford University Graduate School of Business Executive Education and anchored by experienced former prosecutors who now lead organizations committed to transforming prosecution. This groundbreaking program and community supports emerging leaders committed to transforming the practice of prosecution and redressing inequities in the criminal justice system.

Assistant District Attorney Kyle Thompson has been invited by The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PACGA) to participate in its “Train the Trainers” course. The program is designed to enable prosecutors, victim advocates and law enforcement officers charged with training their colleagues to effectively teach and provide feedback to their target audiences. It provides participants with a foundation in effective instruction principles, effective learning environments, promoting participation and interaction, and delivering effective and meaningful feedback. 

These programs will help Mikaela and Kyle continue to develop as leaders and trainers, and the skills they acquire will benefit their colleagues in the DA’s Office and the people of our community.

In the Community

DA Gonzalez was proud to be joined by members of her staff for a visit to a recent Classic City Rotary luncheon. She updated members of the organization on her progress on reform in the eight months since taking office and took a number of questions from attendees.

DA Gonzalez also hosted a livestreamed Town Hall earlier this month is which she was interviewed by WUGA’s Alexia Ridley and took questions from participants. You can watch a recording of the Town Hall here.

If you would like to invite the DA to your organization’s event please email david.lyle@accgov.com.

Reform Across America


Panel of prosecutors addressing the death penalty.

Last month DA Gonzalez was proud to speak on a panel of leading prosecutors who are opponents of the death penalty. She addressed her decision to end the death penalty in our community by committing to never seek that punishment. She was joined on the panel by leading reform prosecutors including Wesley Bell of St. Louis and Laura Conover of Tucson.

Emily Bazelon, a leading journalist, professor at Yale Law School and Author of Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration delivered a book talk to the staff of the DA’s office last month in which she praised participants for doing the important work of reform.

The American Bar Association called on prosecutor’s across America to produce and make available to the public regular reports on the work of their offices, including key information about how cases are handled. Increased transparency is one of DA Gonzalez’s priorities, and the office is working with a leading national firm on these issues to unveil an online data dashboard. Stay tuned for more information on this topic later this year.

Meet the People in the DA’s Office

Victim Advocate Ashley Duvall is an avid traveler and outdoors person.

Investigator Tim Parker knows how to find both witnesses needed for trial and fish.

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