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Hot DA race cools down

7/25/2012



The two Republicans seeking to capture the office of Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney for the next four years say they will be glad when all of the campaigning is behind them.

That day will arrive Tuesday, when voters will cast ballots in the partisan primaries for district attorney and other offices.

"Whatever the result, I'm happy to be done with it," District Attorney Jackie Johnson said Tuesday during an appearance with her challenger, Jonathan Miller, at a meeting of the Brunswick Kiwanis Club at the Brunswick Country Club. "It's going to be a relief to me to get back into the courtroom and doing the things I need to be doing."

Miller, said he too is ready to see an end to campaign politics. "I just want it done and over with," Miller said.

Whoever wins will coast to victory in November, absent an unexpected independent candidate emerging, as no Democrat is seeking the office.

The appearance of Johnson and Miller together was noticeably tame compared to previous months of campaigning.

Since Miller announced his candidacy in May, he has criticized Johnson for allegedly running off experienced attorneys, mishandling a case involving two Glynn County police officers who shot and killed a woman after a 2010 car chase and, most recently, improperly having her employees help in her election campaign.

Johnson has returned fire by alleging that before Miller resigned as an assistant district attorney in March he had attempted to let a sex offender in Camden County live near a church and authorized the release of a stalking defendant without notifying the victim.

On Tuesday, the two appeared only to disagree about one thing -- the role of the district attorney.

"If I had my druthers, I'd be in the courtroom trying cases. But the district attorney doesn't try cases. It's about managing cases, managing attorneys," Miller said. "I would rather resolve 50 cases (outside of trial), and let the good attorney go in and try the murder case."

Johnson flatly disagreed with her opponent.

"I think Mr. Miller and I have a fundamental disagreement about what the district attorney does," Johnson said. "Management is a part of my job, but I have a hard time telling the victims of crime and their loved ones that I'm going to be in the back crunching numbers. I'm going to be in the court standing up for them."

After brief opening remarks, Kiwanis Club members asked the candidates about their trial records, management strategies and various legal opinions.

When asked about their individual conviction rates, neither Miller nor Johnson could accurately report a figure.

Miller told the club he had tried about 50 to 70 cases in the first six years of the eight he worked at the district attorney's office, and he had 80 to 85 percent convictions.

Johnson said she did not keep a record of the total number of cases she has tried, but she has gotten convictions in the 12 murder trials she has prosecuted.

"I have never taken a homicide case to trial where we did not get some sort of verdict," Johnson said.

Miller said in his final two years at the district attorney's office, he focused more on the fast track system, which works to negotiate guilty pleas from defendants outside of trials.

"What I was always told when I came up in the district attorney's office as a 40-year-old rookie was you don't want to try a case. You want to plea a case," he said.

Miller added that Glynn County was a tough place to get convictions compared to other parts of the judicial circuit.

"Glynn County is a tough place to get a conviction because we are educated," he said. "You will find a higher conviction rate in the northern counties in the circuit."

Other counties in the circuit are Camden, Jeff Davis, Wayne and Appling.

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