Many months of hard work by Douglas County District Attorney David McDade have been rewarded as the Georgia General Assembly has now voted to pass HB 349, a criminal justice reform package that was introduced at the behest of Governor Nathan Deal and included several pieces of legislation that McDade co-wrote and sponsored on behalf of the District Attorney Association of Georgia.
McDade’s role in the creation and development of this legislation comes about as a result of his work in several areas. First, he serves as Governor Deal’s appointee to the Criminal Justice Reform Council, which is the group responsible for making recommendations to the Governor on ways to improve the justice system. McDade also serves as the Chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the District Attorney’s Association of Georgia. In that capacity he represents the interests of the entire prosecution community at the State Capitol, a position he has held for many years.
“All the credit for this legislation belongs to Governor Deal for his leadership in seeing to it that these improvements in the justice system become law,” said McDade. “Without his backing I doubt, seriously, that much, if any, of these improvements would have passed.”
McDade said he is most proud of the legislation that specifically expands the protections for children who witness abuse. Under this bill, prosecutors will have the authority to introduce statements made by those children to others describing what they saw and heard, thereby helping to ease the trauma and reduce the re-victimization of those children during court proceedings by hopefully reducing the amount of times they have to testify.
“Anytime we can help a victim, and in this case a child that witnesses abuse is certainly a victim of emotional and psychological abuse, we should do everything in our power to do so,” said McDade. “This bill is designed to do just that.”
Another critically important part of HB 349, according to McDade, is a provision that will allows the prosecution to appeal pre-trial rulings made to exclude evidence from the jury. Under this bill the State would be afforded the right to have a higher court review the ruling before the trial takes place, thereby making certain the ruling was proper. Currently the defendant is always given the ultimate opportunity to have a higher court review a judge’s ruling, whereas the prosecution is not.
“This law would allow us in certain limited situations to be given that same right,” said McDade. “While I do not see this as an issue that I routinely confronted with here locally, many prosecutors around the State feel that competent evidence of a defendant’s guilt is often excluded and that unless a pre-trial review of the decision is available, they are forced to go to trial without it and their victims suffer the consequences.”
While McDade was glad to have a part in HB 349, he acknowledged the Governor and top leaders at the Capitol are the ones responsible for the piece of legislation being passed.
“Again, all the credit belongs to the Governor and to the leadership at the Capitol for making this happen. I’m just fortunate and proud to have had a role in working with them on these changes that I honestly believe will help us help victims,” said McDade.