Saturday, June 28, 2008


I like Greg Edwards. I’ve known Greg since his law school days when he did legal research for me, then later when he was a Georgia Legal Services Staff Attorney. I’ve enjoyed our friendship over the last 25 years, and if he is elected District Attorney, I know that he has the potential of doing a better job than his predecessor. But that being said, I don’t plan on voting for him. And I don’t know any trial lawyer in Albany- including former prosecutors who worked with Greg- who intends to vote for him. That isn’t because Greg is a bad person, because he’s not. But he has exhibited bad judgment on too many occasions over the years, many times costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars, and virtually every lawyer who has litigated with him or against him is aware of it.

The newspaper won’t give me enough space to list all of the examples, but here’s a few: during the trial of State v. Matel Stevens, 1993-R-1058 (appeal reported at 215 Ga. App. 718 (1994)) Greg introduced a videotape into evidence to show a breathalyzer test of a person charged with DUI and felony obstruction of an officer. During closing arguments, the defense lawyer played a portion of the tape to the jury. Inexplicably, Greg objected and moved for a mistrial, which was granted by the trial judge. The Court of Appeals ruled (correctly) that since Greg had put the tape in evidence, it could not possibly have been objectionable to show it to the jury, because lawyers are allowed to review any of the evidence during closing arguments. Because of Double Jeopardy, the defendant could not be retried and the case was dismissed.

A few years later, in the case of State v. Michael Williams, 2002-R-1340, who was charged with felony obstruction of Jerry Folmar, a Sheriff’s Deputy detached to the Albany Dougherty Drug Unit (ADDU), Greg was informed by the defense attorney that witnesses at the scene had given sworn affidavits that the situation was the direct opposite of what Mr. Folmar had sworn to in the arrest warrant. They stated that Mr. Folmar had physically attacked Mr. Williams, and not vice versa. Since Mr. Williams’ orthopedic surgeon was prepared to testify that after his back surgery his condition would have prevented him from lifting Mr. Folmar off the ground, as Mr. Folmar alleged, and since Mr. Williams was not arrested or charged with any other offense (he was a mere witness to an arrest by the ADDU at an intersection near his home), Greg would have not had a reasonable opportunity to get a conviction. However, Greg’s response was to threaten to indict the defense lawyer for suborning perjury for obtaining affidavits of eyewitnesses who did not corroborate Mr. Folmar’s story. When the defense lawyer didn’t back down under this threat, Greg dismissed the criminal prosecution against Mr. Williams on the eve of trial- but only after obtaining a covenant not to sue Jerry Folmar from Mr. Williams as the price of the dismissal. (Two years later Greg repeated his unethical threat to indict a defense lawyer for suborning perjury when the defense lawyer used an audiotape of a witness to impeach his testimony- the threat didn’t work then, either.)

There are three problems, all involving lack of good judgment, with how Greg handled Mr. Williams’ case. First, it is inappropriate to threaten a defense lawyer who is only doing his job by interviewing eyewitnesses at the scene and getting affidavits from them. Second, Mr. Edwards does not represent Mr. Folmar or the Sheriff’s Department- he represents the people of the State of Georgia. If he has information, including sworn affidavits from eyewitnesses, that Mr. Folmar has committed a crime by attacking an innocent citizen, he should investigate that rather than trying to insulate Mr. Folmar from a civil lawsuit by obtaining a covenant not to sue as the price of dismissing an unfounded criminal prosecution. Third, Greg’s handling of that case and his closing his eyes to Mr. Folmar’s transgression cost Dougherty County taxpayers over $100,000 in litigation costs and settlements in at least two subsequent civil lawsuits brought against him in later years for similar misconduct on his part. In one of those lawsuits, other members of the ADDU, and Mr. Folmar himself, admitted under oath at depositions that he had used ethnic slurs and racial epithets (including use of the “N” word). Every one of Mr. Folmar’s victims, including Mr. Williams, is black.

In the case of State v. Donna Wilson, 2005-R-929, Greg wasted two weeks in an unsuccessful but massive RICO/drug trial (over 70 counts on the indictment) costing Dougherty County thousands of dollars because Greg had not properly evaluated his evidence- which was virtually non-existent against Ms. Wilson.

Because of a policy for which Greg is responsible, Dougherty County taxpayers have footed the bill for millions of dollars a year incarcerating prisoners in the County Jail before they can get a bond hearing. The local Superior Court rule is that if the defense attorney and prosecutor can agree on a bond, the judge will set it, but if the prosecutor insists on a hearing, no bond will be set until the date of the hearing, which is often weeks later. Greg routinely refuses to agree to a bond amount, and many of his subordinates have followed his lead. In the great majority of those cases, the judge does set a bond, and the cost to the County, which I got from the Sheriff’s Department, is almost $5,000,000 a year to incarcerate prisoners from the date of arrest until the date they are bonded out. If Greg had acted with proper judgment, the bonds would have been set almost immediately and the County would have saved a large portion of that $5,000,000.

The upshot is that the DA’s office will continue to function if Greg is elected, but taxpayers will shell out millions of dollars unnecessarily, and prosecutorial mistakes will continue to be made, causing innocent people to go to trial while guilty people go free.


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