Starting the new year with big changes in the Chatham Co. District Attorney's Office, newly elected DA Meg Heap says she is now under the gun.
The way the court system deals with violent crimes is about to change, and she has 20 days to get ready.
After letting five prosecutors go, she now has Chatham Co. Commission approval to create three new positions with the understanding the five prosecution jobs will also be filled.
Heap says the positions, including another prosecutor position, a victim-witness advocate, and an investigator for the public defender's office, were born out of necessity when she was given a Feb. 1 deadline by Chief Judge Michael Karpf to be ready for the new Major Crimes Division.
Heap calls the court reorganization plan to place the most violent offenders in one trial category, for prosecution purposes, the "7 Deadly Sins" division, which takes almost all violent crimes and crimes against children and puts them together.
Heap says after she worked out the logistics and details, eight of her prosecutors would be assigned to major crimes which would require them to be in trials three out of four weeks a month. Heap says she shifted resources and used existing money in her budget. She needs approval from the county to create and hire an extra prosecutor and victim witness protection advocate, as well as an investigator for the public defenders office.
Chatham Co. Chairman Al Scott had no issues with the request, but said he expected the five empty prosecutor positions to also be filled.
"What she is going to do is take her budget as it exists and take some of the funds from other positions and create three new positions," Scott said.
The positions will come at no extra cost to the county, Scott said.
The DA promises the new positions, and the judge's new Major Crime Division, will move these major crime cases at a much faster pace.
Saturday, May 18 2013 11:41 AM EDT2013-05-18 15:41:36 GMT
(Photo Credit: MGN-Online)
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