Family wants to hear evidence against deceased

By Daniel Silliman


Three days after a defendant died in an apparent suicide, his attorney filed a motion asking to see the evidence.

Donald Ray Hood, a 62-year-old former director of the county's maintenance department, was charged with stealing a flag from the memorial of a fallen officer.

Hood's attorney, William J. Atkins, said the entire prosecution has been "shrouded in secrecy," and the Hood family, mourning the man's death, would like to have the shroud lifted.

"Hood and his family have never been able to ascertain what evidence, if any, the District Attorney possessed to support the charge in the Indictment," Atkins wrote in the motion. "Hood died without ever knowing what the evidence was against him in this matter, and his family remains completely ignorant of the basis for this criminal charge."

Atkins has argued that the prosecution was politically motivated and said the allegations against Hood were meant to pressure him to give the Clayton County District Attorney's office potentially damning information about Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell.

Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott's husband, Lee, is running against Bell in an upcoming election.

Hood fatally shot himself in the chest Friday afternoon, three days after the district attorney's office filed a motion seeking to strip him of his county retirement benefits, if he was convicted. Hood had said he was afraid of the prosecutors' power and that he believed he'd been trapped in a political game.

"That's how Donnie saw it, that he'd have to prove his innocence," Atkins said Monday. "Based on Donnie's last communications with his family and friends, there is no doubt that he was absolutely distraught and terrified by that notice that he'd lose everything he'd worked so hard for, that his wife would lose everything he'd worked so hard for."

Along with a motion to dismiss the case against the deceased defendant, Atkins is asking a judge to open up the district attorney's files.

The only publicly available information about the evidence against Hood, at this point, included the fact that a former subordinate testified against him to a Clayton County grand jury. Jewel Scott described the case as "solid," though.

Scott said Monday night that she hadn't yet seen the motion, but thought the evidence against Hood would come out. She said there's a substantial amount of evidence and she's concerned, at this point, that it will further hurt the family. Repeating her sympathies to the family, Scott defended her office, saying she thinks it did what it is supposed to do.

"As a prosecutor," she said, "I have to do my job. I have to prosecute without fear or favor. I think that's what we were doing."