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Keller loses longtime D.A. position

By Ed Brock

The state's longest serving district attorney, Robert Keller, lost his seat in the Democratic Primary in Clayton County Tuesday to attorney Jewel Scott.

Clayton County Solicitor General Keith Martin was trailing attorney Leslie Miller Terry with absentee and early votes still to be counted.

Keller, 57, has held the office for 27 years. Voters picked Scott by a margin of 16,470 (61.9 percent) to 7,844 (29.49 percent) over Keller with about 2,000 absentee and early voting ballots still being counted.

Attorney Michael King received 2,288 votes or 8.6 percent.

The margin of victory was too large to be affected by the absentee and early voting ballots that were being counted by hand.

Scott's husband, Lee Scott, said Tuesday night was "a night of celebration" and said Jewel Scott would have no other comment for the press except to say that "it was the Lord's victory."

Scott could not be reached for comment.

A native of Jamaica, Scott, 43, now lives in Jonesboro and said previously that she's been practicing since 1984, some in Jamaica and New York, before coming to Clayton County. She's practiced criminal and civil law and worked for Atlanta's legal aid program.

Scott also said she wants to seek alternatives to incarceration through pre-trial intervention programs, especially for non-violent offenders.

"I also would like to develop an environment in the district attorney's office where justice, fairness, truth and honesty prevail," Scott said.

Also, Scott said she would stop what she called the "unfair practice of selective prosecution," but she would certainly strongly prosecute those she believes to be guilty.

Improving relations between the community and the district attorney's office is also on Scott's list of issues. She wants the office to be sensitive to the needs of the community and she wants to work with churches, civic organizations and schools to reach out especially to the youth of the county.

Before becoming the district attorney in 1977, Keller was in private practice for three years and prior to that he had been an assistant district attorney for three years. A resident of Jonesboro, Keller said he's been practicing law since 1972.

Shirley Tyler of Jonesboro voted for Keller.

"He's been a good district attorney and I'm proud of him," Tyler said.

King is 49 and lives in College Park. Originally from Tallahassee, Fla., where he was a grade-school teacher, King has been practicing law in Clayton County for the past 14 years.

Terry had 12,410 votes to 11,648 for Martin, a margin of 762 votes with absentee and early votes still being counted.

A former assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, Terry lives in Riverdale. She ran on a "four point plan for justice," improving relations between the solicitor's office and the community, maximizing the prosecution of violent criminals, providing rehabilitation programs for non-habitual offenders and initiating alternative programs for crime prevention.

Martin, 55, has been the county's solicitor general for the past 16 years.

Keller and Martin's defeat was part of Jonesboro voter Leia Bailey's plan.

"I'd like the district attorney to be changed, and the solicitor general and the sheriff," Bailey said shortly after casting her vote Tuesday afternoon.

The district attorney's office has a staff of about 60 people, including 14 assistant district attorneys. It has a budget of around $2.9 million.

The solicitor general's office has a staff of around 26 full-time, part-time and contract personnel, including nine assistant solicitors. It has a budget of $1.45 million.