The grants were issued by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance
Atlanta—The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office is the recipient of two significant grants issued by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance in the amount of $2.5 million for the continuation of the FCDA Conviction Integrity Unit and the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Task Force. The FCDA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Task Force was awarded a grant in the amount of $2 million. The FCDA Conviction Integrity Unit also received a grant in the amount of $500,000.00.
FCDA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative:
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Task Force was formed in 2018 as a result of a $1 million grant that was awarded by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The FCDA was one of only five District Attorney’s Offices in the United States to receive such an award. The additional $2 million grant recently secured by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office allows the SAKI Task Force to continue to operate at full capacity for an additional three years (October 2020-September 2023). The task force is dedicated to exclusively investigating and indicting cases resulting from CODIS matches. The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Task Force is currently comprised of a Chief Senior Assistant District Attorney, a Senior Investigator, a Senior Victim-Witness Advocate, an Assistant District Attorney, and an Investigator. The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Task Force was formed in direct response to the 1,500 backlogged sexual assault kits that were identified at Grady Hospital in 2015. The kits were eventually transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for testing and Combined DNA Index System matches were discovered. The FCDA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative has identified 156 cases thus far. At least 16 serial sexual offenders have been identified, and a serial sexual offender is considered to be someone who has committed two or more sexual offenses.
SAKI Case Examples:
- Dandre Shabazz: serial sexual offender convicted on February 26, 2020 for rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated sodomy, and aggravated child molestation in incidents involving (12) twelve female victims between 2002 and 2005. Shabazz was sentenced to (12) twelve consecutive life sentences.
- Cleophus Ward: serial sexual offender indicted on August 20, 2019 for the rape/attempted rape of five women between 2000 and 2002. Ward typically targeted female victims who were walking or standing alone. Ward’s case has been indicted and is awaiting trial.
FCDA Conviction Integrity Unit:
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit also received a significant grant in the amount of $500,000.00 from the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. This award will allow the Conviction Integrity Unit and its Director Aimee Maxwell to hire (1) one Assistant District Attorney and (1) one Investigator to review cases involving DNA evidence. The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office CIU currently consists of a Director, an Investigator, and the Citizen Review Panel. The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit was the first in Georgia and one of the first in the Southeastern United States. The Conviction Integrity Unit endeavors to review past convictions for credible claims of actual innocence, wrongful conviction, and, where feasible, sentencing inequities. This process is afforded to applicants regardless of whether they are pro se or represented by an attorney. The CIU is committed to ensuring all submissions receive a thorough and equitable review. The FCDA CIU will review four types of cases which include claims of actual innocence, in the interest of justice, sentence modification, and cases of historical significance. The FCDA CIU has received 197 requests, 50 of which are from outside of Fulton County, so 147 cases are active. The Citizen Review Panel has considered 32 cases so far.
CIU Case Examples:
- Darrell Hall: In Fulton County in 1991, Darrell Hall was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Hall was in possession of a minimal amount of cocaine which equaled the size of two sugar packets; however, it was Hall’s second felony offense, so Georgia law required that Hall be sentenced to life in prison. Today, under Georgia law, Hall would have been afforded the opportunity to complete Fulton County’s Drug Court Program. Through the course of a review of sentences that may be unfair and unjust, Director Aimee Maxwell discovered that Hall was the only prison inmate from Fulton County serving a life sentence for a drug offense. Hall’s sentence was vacated and he was released from prison in 2019. In January 2020, Hall was offered an employment opportunity with Tyler Perry Studios during the commencement ceremony for the Fulton County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit.