By JASON SWINDLE, Special to The Newnan Times-Herald
I recently took my boys, Jake and Reagan, to the Capitol in Atlanta.
They both wanted to see the governor again and watch him swear in the new district attorney for the Coweta Judicial Circuit – Carroll, Coweta, Troup, Heard and Meriwether counties.
I think the boys were okay with the idea of getting out of school as well.
My youngest boy, Reagan, probably was the most excited. He will be a lawyer. Although,
unlike his daddy, he seems to have the edge of a prosecutor. He and Jake met a lot of friends that day. But, Reagan kept asking me about “the guy from Newnan.”
Around 2 p.m. on that day, Feb. 17, John Herbert “Herb” Cranford Jr. was sworn in by Gov. Nathan Deal.
I have known Herb for many years. I have noticed that he has all the qualities our leaders should possess: honor, loyalty, effectiveness, etc. But, he has one quality that is rare: true humility.
Regarding humility, Cranford stated at the Capitol, “Humility may be the most important lesson I incorporate into serving as DA because humility is the necessary balance of the power and responsibility that comes with this position.”
Herb born and raised in Newnan. His roots run deep in the west Georgia area. His family
and ancestors have been here since the 1800’s. He is also a third-generation prosecutor.
His paternal grandfather, Clifford A. Cranford, served as solicitor general of Coweta County from 1952-1984. In his remarks at the Capitol, Cranford spoke about learning from his grandfather to be kind, fair and respectful to all people.
Herb’s father served in the same capacity from 1988-1998. John Herbert Cranford Sr. is now the chief judge of the State Court of Coweta County. His father taught him temperament, preparation and appreciation for law enforcement, particularly the dangers they encounter every day.
Herb graduated from the University of Georgia and pursued his law degree at Mercer University.
Like his father and grandfather, his interest in prosecution began to naturally develop. He
interned for the Coweta DA’s Office his seconnd year of law school. Then, he came back to work as an unpaid intern after taking the Bar exam until he was hired as an assistant DA that fall by prior DA Peter “Pete” John Skandalakis.
Since then, as I can say from personal experience, he has been a formidable adversary.
I asked Herb what issue affecting the circuit and counties close to our circuit – like Paulding, Douglas, Haralson, Fayette – was most important. He gave a quick response, gangs.
“I have been a leader in gang prosecutions in the circuit, having had the first trial of a multi-defendant gang case. Under my watch, gangs will not infiltrate this area and threaten the citizens.”
I was not surprised, but still happy to hear him say that as DA, he will focus on doing the right thing, seeking justice, and being respectful of everyone in the criminal justice system.
While he made it clear that violent criminals would be prosecuted vigorously, he also pointed out that he believes in Gov. Deal’s criminal justice reforms and will move forward with “smart” prosecution.
Cranford said, “Why should the taxpayers be burdened with the cost of incarcerating a non-violent drug offender or person with significant mental health problems? Our circuit has drug courts, mental health courts and other accountability courts that serve as a less expensive and more effective way of dealing with offenders who are not a threat to our people. The DA’s Office will be fully involved in our existing accountability courts, and I will advocate for more of them throughout the circuit.”
I have always mentioned that I am a citizen first and then a criminal defense attorney. Under Cranford’s administration, I feel confident that my family and I are safe.
As an attorney, I expect disagreements with the DA’s Office and some agreements as well. But, as with Pete Skandalakis’ team of prosecutors, I expect that we can always “agree to disagree.”
Surprisingly, such professionalism does not exist in some circuits across Georgia.
Regardless of our opinions on what is just and the vigorous court battles that will take place, I do know something based on three generations of honorable men: Herb Cranford will settle for nothing less than a professional, transparent and talented team.
That team will be a significant part in shaping the future of justice in west Georgia.
Jason Swindle is a criminal-defense attorney and college professor in Carrollton.