Laken Riley murder case: Athens DA bringing in special prosecutor after criticism from lawyers

ATHENS, Ga. — The district attorney in Athens-Clarke County announced that she would not be trying Laken Riley’s murder case herself after lawyers raised concerns.

District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez confirmed to Channel 2′s Michael Seiden on Monday night that she will bring in a top trial attorney for task force in preparation for the new case.

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The decision comes after DA Gonzalez faced criticism from lawmakers and lawyers who claim she is unable to handle trying the case of Laken Riley’s murder. According to Gonzalez, Sheila Ross from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council (PAC) will return for Riley’s case.

Gonzalez’s office sent the following statement that reads as follows:

“I want to express my gratitude to my colleagues from across Georgia who have supported our circuit during this tragic event at our flagship institution. We will not allow this or any other case to be used for political gain. Our top priority is the safety of every citizen, and we are fully committed to ensuring that justice is served for the loss of every life. Sheila Ross from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council (PAC) will return to the Western District. We welcome her back as a knowledgeable and well-respected trial attorney with the expertise ready to bring justice on behalf of Laken Riley. In preparation, this office and our law enforcement partners have maintained constant communication throughout the investigation. We will provide further updates once the case is turned over to our office. From day one, our office has worked diligently to keep this community safe from anyone who seeks to do it harm. This includes those who believe that violence is the answer. We will ensure that such individuals are brought to justice. Our hearts and our work are with the victim’s family and friends during this difficult time. We will provide additional comments once more information becomes available.”

Channel 2′s Michael Seiden was live in Athens on Monday on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m. Three attorneys and a lawmaker said they don’t have any confidence in DA Gonzalez.

“It’s a sad day for this family for this community and my prayers and thoughts go out to them I cannot imagine what they’re going through,” attorney Kevin Epps said.

Epps is a lifelong resident of Athens and also a major critic of Gonzalez, the top prosecutor in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties.

“Ms. Gonzalez has failed to achieve one guilty verdict in a jury trial involving any type of criminal case,” Epps said.

Epps is currently suing Gonzalez on behalf of an Athens bar owner and accuses her of being unwilling to do her job. Epps said he believes Gonzalez and her office are not equipped to prosecute the murder suspect accused of killing Riley.


“We currently have a district attorney that has a complete inability to prosecute this case appropriately,” Epps said.

Epps is not alone in his criticism. On social media, state representative Houston Gains, a Republican from Athens, is calling Gonzalez to pursue the death penalty in the case.

But according to a memo she published on her first day in office, Gonzalez promised that she would not seek the death penalty while prosecuting cases.

Last August, nearly 60 current and former prosecutors from all over the county filed a brief with the Georgia Supreme Court in support of Gonzalez following the lawsuit filed against her.

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