Time: Atlanta’s first Black female district attorney is at the center of America's converging crises

UC law professor offers thoughts on reforming prosecuting attorney offices

Time magazine profiled the Atlanta-area’s first black female district attorney, Fani Willis. As Fulton County’s chief prosecutor, Willis has mandate to dispense justice in a city know as the ‘cradle of the American civil rights movement,’ the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. Like other big-city prosecutors, Willis is under pressure to reduce and punish crime, even as limiting imprisonment had just gained overwhelming public support and some degree of legal traction. This comes as Atlanta homicides rose more than 60% in 2020, hitting 157 people killed. Willis was elected on a promise to operate in a more progressive fashion.

Mark Godsey, a professor of law at the UC College of Law director of the Ohio Innocence Project, says many of these self-identified progressive candidates, once elected find themselves surrounded by long-term prosecutors working in their offices. Those people are, more often than not, determined to do things the old way. “In my experience when somebody is a lifelong prosecutor and they run on a progressive platform, they don’t tend to stick to it as long as somebody who really comes from an outside perspective” Godsey told Time. “They grew up in that culture as well so they sort of come from that mentality.”

Read the entire Time story online.

Learn more about Mark Godsey.

Learn more about the Ohio Innocence Project.

Featured image of Mark Godsey taken by Lisa Ventre/UC Creative Brand.