JACKSBORO, TN. (WLAF)- The trying of criminal cases is a long, often arduous process.
The 17 assistant district attorneys in the Eighth Judicial District each carry an average of just under 1,300 cases. They strive to be included from the minute a crime is discovered, sometimes going out in the middle of the night.
“It is just so much better for us to be involved on the front end,” said Eighth Judicial District Attorney General Jared Effler.
From July 2021 to June 2022 the district attorney’s office disposed of 22,049 cases across the five county district that is made up of Campbell, Claiborne, Scott, Union and Fentress Counties. To help manage those numbers, the district is utilizing two prosecutors who specialize in the cases that land on their desks.
Kate Fair is the DUI prosecutor and Josh McFarland is the domestic violence prosecutor.
“They are our go tos on these particular issues,” Effler said. “DUIs are the most legally complex” cases. Fair’s knowledge on that topic is “invaluable,” he said.
DUIs are “not the criminal’s crime,” according to Fair. Anyone can cross the line when it comes to that particular crime. But that doesn’t diminish the seriousness of a DUI. “There are such terrible ramifications. Lives can be forever changed,” Fair said. This program is operated through a grant.
From Jan. 1 until June 30, Fair disposed of 103 DUI cases in Campbell County.
Along with prosecuting these cases, Fair also provides trainings across the district for law enforcement and her colleagues.
McFarland’s program is also grant funded. From July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, his program handled 200 cases- double what the grant projected in its inception. For McFarland, a former police officer, the volatility of domestic violence cases is real. “It is the most dangerous situation you can go into,” he said.
Having seen it first hand, McFarland is empathic to the victims he sees. He helps them secure community resources and in Scott and Claiborne Counties, he directs them to The Family Justice Centers. At a FJC, victims can obtain court assistance, housing and financial resources and, if needed, emotional support all under one roof.
These centers take a proactive approach to the domestic violence issue.
“What we do can change people’s lives for generations,” McFarland said.
Since most crimes have a victim, the district attorney’s office often becomes their advocate.
It is a responsibility none of them takes lightly. The work they do on behalf of victims is “almost a calling,” according to Lindsey Cadle, assistant district attorney in Campbell County.
Cadle was in private practice for 10 years before joining Effler’s staff. That was “continual stress” whereas now she has “waves of stress” that mostly center on jury trials, she said.
Within the Eighth Judicial District, decisions about cases are made with victims in mind, according to Effler.
“We have to do everything we can to help victims,” he said. That is why victims are kept informed of the process from the beginning. Effler encourages his staff to build relationships with victims. “We listen to their concerns,” he said.
And while there is the rare occasion a victim doesn’t agree with the resolution of a case Effler and his staff have included them in the process.
“My job is to lay everything out there and make an informed decision,” he said. “We deal in terms of what we think is responsible.”
And there are times when no matter how hard the ADAs try, the evidence to prosecute an alleged offender is not there.
“What I know, and what I can prove makes me sick,” Cadle said.
When this happens, the DA doesn’t bow out of the case, they still try to connect victims with resources.
The Eighth Judicial District is the only rural district to have a children’s advocacy center in each county. This is a source of pride for Effler and his staff. This too is a one stop for child victims of abuse. The children only tell their story once which means they aren’t repeatedly retraumatized by sharing it with multiple authorities.
Cases revolving around child abuse and child sexual abuse are the hardest.
“Those are the ones that keep you up at night,” Effler said.
(WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED 8/7/2023- 6AM)