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Cobb DA responds to calls for investigation into inmate's death in jail

'As your District Attorney, my office will do the right thing.'

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The Cobb County District Attorney is responding to growing concern in the community after jail staff appeared to ignore an inmate's repeated requests for help as he died slowly.

Surveillance video from the Cobb County jail showed Kevil Wingo collapsing multiple times as nurses and deputies ignore his cries for medical assistance. It happened in September 2019, but details of his death were concealed for nine months until the sheriff’s office concluded its internal affairs investigation this past June.

An internal investigation report by the department says no staff member committed a crime or violated any jail policy. The report did not recommend disciplinary action taken on any employee. But Wingo's family said what jail staffers did was a crime, and they need to be held accountable.

RELATED: 'I can't breathe': Man dies in custody after hours of begging for help

According to District Attorney Joyette Holmes, an attorney for Wingo's family delivered files for the case to the DA's office this week, which Holmes promised to review.

"As the District Attorney I am committed to making sure that matters of public safety are addressed appropriately," Holmes said.

Holmes said the loss of Wingo's life - like any loss of life - evoked "all types of emotion, discussion, and a call to action." 

"The sadness and frustration that his family, and those who support his family, feel should not be minimized," she said. "I am a person who serves a mission in the role of District Attorney and likewise sympathize with the family, our county, and all others in the greater community."

RELATED: Jail nurses ignored dying man's calls for help | Now there's a call for criminal investigation

She added that while many have called for a special grand jury to look into the death of Wingo, Georgia code, and not the DA solely, dictates the impaneling of such juries under normal circumstances. While the DA can request that the judges of the superior court gather a grand jury, it is up to the judges to vote to do so and appoint a judge to lead the special grand jury.

However, due to the current judicial emergency - issued as a result of the coronavirus pandemic - no new grand juries, including special grand juries, can be called.

Holmes added that her office does have direct supervision over routine grand juries, and part of the duties of those juries is an annual inspection of jail facilities. Holmes said once the Georgia Supreme Court allows for her office to resume those functions, the jury will do so, bearing in mind the "concerns of the overall operations of the Cobb Adult Detention Center."

“As your District Attorney, my office will do the right thing, by basing our decisions on thorough agency inspections and appropriate case investigations, when the Georgia Supreme Court provides us with the opportunity to address such matters,” she vowed.

Read the full statement from District Attorney Joyette Holmes below: 

“It goes without saying that matters involving the loss of life, no matter where they occur, are going to evoke all types of emotion, discussion, and a call to action. Mr. Kevil Wingo’s case is no exception. The sadness and frustration that his family, and those who support his family, feel should not be minimized. I am a person who serves a mission in the role of District Attorney and likewise sympathize with the family, our county, and all others in the greater community. Mr. Gardner, the attorney for the Wingo family, hand-delivered materials that he received from the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, pursuant to an Open Records Request he filed, to my office this week. As I have indicated to him, those files will be reviewed by my office. To date, we have not received any other files from any other agency.

“As the District Attorney I am committed to making sure that matters of public safety are addressed appropriately. Citizen concerns are brought to my attention daily and addressed by our office or referred to the appropriate agency without favor or fear. The role of the District Attorney remains constant.

“Many have called for the impaneling of a special grand jury. It is important at this juncture to understand the process. Notwithstanding the judicial emergency, which precludes any court from impaneling new grand juries, including special grand juries, the Official Code of Georgia 15-12-100 controls the impaneling of special grand juries. When the “Guidance on Grand Juries during the Supreme Court’s Judicial Emergency Order” provides for the impaneling of new, and special, grand juries, any elected official in the county, or in any municipality within; the Chief Judge of the Superior Court, on its own motion; or I, as District Attorney, can request the Judges of the Superior Court to impanel a special grand jury for the purpose of investigating any matter as provided by law. Pursuant to Ga. Code 15-12-101, if the majority of the judges vote to impanel a special grand jury, the Chief Judge shall assign a Judge of the Superior Court of the county to supervise and assist the special grand jury in carrying out its investigation and duties.

“A grand jury that hears regular presentments and routine indictments, and that performs agency/office inspections, falls under the direct supervision of the District Attorney. Official Code of Georgia Section 15-12-71(b)(1) guides the operation of this grand jury in its requirement that the grand jurors inspect the operation of the jail annually. Our office has a process that sends the grand jury to the jail multiple times a year (every grand jury term) to inspect the jail, ask questions of Sheriff’s Office personnel, and complete a report of that inspection. Upon receiving an updated order from the Georgia Supreme Court that allows us to resume these specific functions, grand jurors will again perform the jail inspection, having in mind the information provided to this office regarding the concerns of the overall operations of the Cobb Adult Detention Center.

“As your District Attorney, my office will do the right thing, by basing our decisions on thorough agency inspections and appropriate case investigations, when the Georgia Supreme Court provides us with the opportunity to address such matters.”