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A high-stakes criminal case, and a tough election ahead for Fulton County district attorney

Howard’s job as Fulton County's DA is in jeopardy after he finished more than 12,000 votes behind a challenger in the June 9 primary.

ATLANTA — U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia) called on the state attorney general to take over prosecution of police officers charged in the Rayshard Brooks killing.

“Charging an Atlanta police officer with felony murder before the completion of the GBI's investigation was a political decision, not a legal one," Collins said in a statement.

The attorney general replied on Twitter that he can’t because the district attorney, Paul Howard, would have to recuse himself.  And Howard – who is embroiled in a tough re-election fight – isn’t doing that.  

Howard’s job as Fulton County's DA is in jeopardy after he finished more than 12,000 votes behind a challenger in the June 9 primary.

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Wednesday, Howard put himself in the middle of a protest outside the Fulton County courthouse – moments after he announced a murder charge against now-fired Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe.  

Authorities say Rolfe shot and killed Rayshard Brooks outside a fast food restaurant June 12 after Brooks grabbed a police taser and ran, and appeared to turn and aim the taster at officers as they pursued him on foot. 

Howard’s meeting with protesters after announcing the charges may not have been about Howard’s political challenges. Howard says video of the incident compelled his office to file charges – even though the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) hasn’t finished its criminal investigation into the incident.  

RELATED: GBI says it was not consulted by DA before charges filed against officers in Rayshard Brooks case

Howard has denied any political motivation.

One of Howard’s former top assistants, Fani Willis, forced Howard into an August primary runoff.

It’s hard for an elected DA to avoid the whiff of politics, says former DeKalb County district attorney J. Tom Morgan.  

"After having been an elected district attorney, you can’t stick your head in the sand. Politics is there in everything we did," said Morgan, who now teaches law in North Carolina.

RELATED: Former APD officer charged with murder of Rayshard Brooks turns himself in, second officer out on bond

Morgan told 11Alive News that Georgia should pass a law requiring the state attorney general – instead of the county DA – to prosecute charges against police – to avoid local political influences.

"If you let politics control the decision, you’re not making the right decisions," Morgan said. 

Morgan thinks the attorney general could recruit prosecutors from around the state on an as-needed basis to help prosecute police cases – if the law were to change.