FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis gave an update Wednesday morning on whether she was able to secure indictments for dozens of accused killers and rapists.
She said that her team has already indicted 193 murder defendants in a seven-month time frame (since March 1). She revealed that on Tuesday alone they indicted 66 cases with a third of them being homicides.
There's been a huge backlog of cases the pandemic left the courtrooms shut down. If her office couldn't get through the "historic" backlog of cases, she said some of the possible violent offenders could have gotten out on bond. Many of the cases, Willis says, she inherited from predecessors when she took office in January of 2021. The backlog included 224 murder defendants who had yet to be indicted and accused her predecessors of "mismanagement."
"We inherited over 11,000 unindicted cases," Willis said during the press conference. "Now the bad news ... due to the rise in crime and because of what we inherited we still have around 11,000 cases."
She also said that as a result of COVID-19 cases were not indicted in Fulton County for a year. But one thing in particular really made it difficult.
"What really brought us to the tip of the iceberg, was the fact that by right and by law, a 90-day rule went into effect that criminals would be guaranteed a bond no matter their criminal history or what they were charged with, just based on a timeline," Willis explained.
Robert James, the former district attorney for DeKalb County, explained how the process works.
"An attorney would file a motion for bond. And a judge, a superior court judge would have no choice but to grant bond," James explained. "There's a very good chance that there are some people if they have the means to make bond, and if the judge sets a bar under they can make, then, they will be they will be walking and, that's what our laws in Georgia dictate indict them within 89 days, or they will receive a bond."
James told 11Alive that it put a lot of pressure on Willis' office.
"... puts tremendous pressure on a DA and DA'S office, because no one wants to see bad guys back out on the street. But at the same time, that has to be balanced against, the individual that's charged their right to due process, and their right not to sit in jail for extended periods of time," James went on to explain.
Willis said that under former District Attorney Paul Howard's term in 2019, over a 12-month period, only 156 defendants were indicted for the crime of murder. She expects to exceed 300 this year alone.
Willis was able to hire more than 55 people including court staff, prosecutors, and more to help push the cases through. During the press conference, she said that was largely due to a five million dollar donation.
She said she is actively interviewing every day and plans to have a staff of approximately 325 when she's done.
"I want to mainly thank my staff for believing the mission," Willis said. "I am hiring dedicated people that understand, I will snatch your weekend from you and your night, but we will get this work done."
The press conference took place around 9 a.m. at the Fulton County District Attorney's Office on Pryor Street.