Shalena Cook Jones
AboutI decided to become a lawyer when I was eight years old. In my mind, lawyers were as close to superheroes as real people could get. Even though I had only met one lawyer by then, the experience made a lasting impression on me, and I was fully convinced that lawyers were heroes sent to help others in times of great crisis and controversy. This thought has guided my career path for nearly two decades.
I am fortunate to have had such a diverse legal career since graduating from UGA Law school in 2002. Having practiced in private and public settings in Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina, I’ve met my fair share of lawyers and been involved in all kinds of cases. Today, I can confidently say that being a prosecutor has been the most rewarding job of my life because of all the different types of lawyers out there, prosecutors fight for justice!!
Unlike other kinds of lawyers whose sole duty is to advocate for a specific person or client, the prosecutor’s duty is to the People. According to Rule 3.8 of the Georgia Rules of Conduct, “a prosecutor has the responsibility of being a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate.”
The guidance set forth by the National District Attorneys Association underscores this principle.
“The primary responsibility of a prosecutor is to seek justice, which can only be achieved by the representation and presentation of the truth. This responsibility includes, but is not limited to, ensuring that the guilty are held accountable, that the innocent are protected from unwarranted harm, and that the rights of all participants, particularly victims of crime, are respected.”
In other words, the prosecutor is duty-bound to seek outcomes that are fair and just under the law according to the evidence and circumstances presented by each case. This requires the prosecutor to do what is just and fair even when it is unpopular; to make sure that his or her duties are carried out free from personal or political agendas; to treat every single person they encounter with dignity and respect, maintain professionalism, and avoid all appearances of impropriety. It means being careful to identify where implicit bias and historical prejudice are in operation and eliminate them in order to reduce unfair outcomes. It means being mindfully aware that justice cannot be reduced to case numbers, paperwork, and conviction rates. Justice rests in knowing that with each case, we are handling people’s lives, their trauma, their future, and their sense of safety, freedom, and well-being which, in my opinion, are the most precious and fragile assets we have.
I am proud to do this job every day and even more proud to do it with and for you, the citizens. Together, we will hold offenders accountable, protect victims of crime and continue to make Chatham County the best it can possibly be.