DA's office receives witness assistance grant

The Clayton County District Attorney's Office has received a $77,192 grant from the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, to fund three victim-witness assistant positions, according to documents presented to the Clayton County Board of Commissioners this week.

The board voted 4-0, during a business meeting on Tuesday, to accept the grant funds on behalf of the District Attorney's Office, according to the commission's clerk, ShelHaywood. She said Commission Vice Chairman Wole Ralph was not present at the meeting.

According to the resolution, the county is required to pay matching funds of $19,298, as a stipulation for receiving the grant.

Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said her office includes a department designed to make sure crime victims are taken care of when their attackers are prosecuted in the court system.

"They visit with 5,000 individual victims — a total of approximately 15,000 times per year," Lawson said. "They are in the courtroom every day, making sure the victims are OK, and checking up on them [outside of court], to make sure everything is continuing to be OK ... They are absolutely critical to what we do. They provide assistance and re-assurance for the victims."

Lawson said the grant is actually something that the county has been receiving annually, from the state, for several years. She said the money is used to fund two full-time, and one part-time, victim-witness assistants in her office.

According to documents obtained Wednesday from the county commission's office, Gov. Sonny Perdue formally notified Lawson via letter, on Sept. 27, that her office would once again receive grant funding for this year.

"Ensuring our citizens' public safety and addressing the needs of innocent victims of crime remain among my highest priorities for our state," Perdue wrote in the letter to Lawson.

"The 184 initiatives funded under the VOCA [Victims of Crime Act] program this year will play a significant role in our criminal justice system, providing direct services to crime victims throughout Georgia," Perdue added. "Your work is integral to this effort, and to assuring victims experience fairness and justice throughout their involvement with our criminal justice system."