Fani Willis Sued Over Incarcerated People Waiting In Jail Without Indictments


OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.

Things just went from bad to worse for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Willis is being sued by the Atlanta-based nonprofit Barred Business Foundation for allegedly neglecting to notify a judge when an individual is detained for a felony charge without an indictment lasting more than 45 days.

According to an ACLU report from last year, over one-third of inmates at Fulton County Jail met that description at one point. Julian Clark is an attorney with the ACLU, which is representing the nonprofit in this lawsuit along with the ACLU of Georgia. He talked with Peter Biello of GPB.

During an interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting reporter Peter Biello, ACLU attorney Julian Clark spoke about the lawsuit and some of the organization’s findings.

The reporter asked: “So your study found last year that hundreds of people are waiting in jail without an indictment. When you asked Fulton County why these people were waiting so long, what did they say?”


“So, we specifically sent in records requests that asked for information about it, but we never asked directly any officials in the county why. Why people are being held. We specifically requested whether they were complying with a court rule which is subject of the lawsuit. And they responded that they have no information that is relevant to our request, which suggests to us that they are not in compliance with that rule,” Clark responded.

Peter Biello went on to ask: “OK. So why is it important for a judge to know when an individual is kept in jail for that amount of time without an indictment?”

Clark responded: “The reason why it’s essential to know is that Fulton County Jail now, and for a long time, has been experiencing overcrowding. There’s terrible conditions in the jail. People have died. Dozens of people have died over the last couple of years. And right now, given those conditions, if there’s anyone that’s in the jail that hasn’t been convicted or the judge has an opportunity to expedite their case process, it’s essential that the judge be aware of that.”

“Is this unique to Fulton County or is this going on elsewhere in Georgia?” the reporter asked.

“So our investigation was primarily focused on Fulton County. But our understanding is that this is likely something that’s happening all over the state,” Clark added.

Biello went on to ask: “The Fulton County Jail is a crowded, dangerous place, as you mentioned at the outset. There have been several deaths in a short amount of time at the Fulton County Jail. Do you think compliance with this law would help with the jail’s overcrowding? And if so, how?”

Clark responded: “Yes, absolutely. Another thing that could be done is that the judges in Fulton County could start evaluating people’s ability to pay. So if, if they’re being charged with a misdemeanor or even some felonies, judges are required to evaluate whether someone can make a certain bail determination. And right now, that’s not happening. So our hope is that compliance with this rule will bring greater awareness and hopefully spark some change.”

Willis has made national headlines for her case against former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants.

The judge presiding over Willis’ case against Trump, the leading 2024 GOP presidential contender, and several other co-defendants could face a gag order.

Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee warned Willis she could face a gag order that would prevent her from discussing the case in public.

Willis made public comments recently amid allegations that she engaged in an improper relationship with special counsel Nathan Wade, whom she appointed to head the Trump election interference case in Georgia.

During the speech, Willis invoked the “race card” without citing evidence of racial animus and criticized a Fulton County Commissioner “and so many others” for criticizing her decision to hire Wade.

“In these public and televised comments, the District Attorney complained that a Fulton County Commissioner ‘and so many others’ questioned her decision to hire SADA Wade. When referring to her detractors throughout the speech, she frequently utilized the plural ‘they,’” McAfee wrote.

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“The State argues the speech was not aimed at any of the Defendants in this case. Maybe so. But maybe not. Therein lies the danger of public comment by a prosecuting attorney,” his order noted further. “By including a reference to ‘so many others’ on the heels of Defendant Roman’s motion which instigated the entire controversy, the District Attorney left that question open for the public to consider.

“The Court cannot find that this speech crossed the line to the point where the Defendants have been denied the opportunity for a fundamentally fair trial, or that it requires the District Attorney’s disqualification,” he stated.

“But it was still legally improper. Providing this type of public comment creates dangerous waters for the District Attorney to wade further into,” McAfee wrote.



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