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Indictments in Clayton up 44 percent

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson says her office is making progress on clearing a backlog of cases she inherited when she took office in January.

Graham Lawson said her office filed 976 accusations and indictments during January, February, and March, the first quarter of this year, compared to 679 filed during the first quarter of 2008 - a 44 percent increase.

She said accusations are allowed for felony offenses that do not have to go before the grand jury, such as theft by taking and forgery cases. Indictments would be required for more egregious crimes that must go before the grand jury such as murder, rape, or robbery.

The district attorney said the increase in case filings took place despite a 53 percent increase in the number of defendant cases coming into the office during the first quarter. She said 821 cases came into the office during the first quarter of 2008, compared to 1,264 new cases from January through March of this year.

Graham Lawson said the increase in new cases does not necessarily reflect an increase in crime in Clayton County. "It could just be that the police departments finished their investigations and brought them to us, and sought warrants that didn't come to fruition until January," she said.

The number of unindicted inmate cases was also reduced by 31 percent during the first quarter of 2009, Graham Lawson said. Last year, the average number of unindicted inmate cases monthly was 255, compared to an average of 177 unindicted inmate cases in February and March of this year, she said.

"They're moving faster through the system, not just languishing in jail," said Graham Lawson. "We're working really hard to make Clayton County a safe place with justice for all," she said.