The grant is available through Georgia to district attorney departments in judicial circuits that experience increased illegal drug cases coupled with an active circuitwide drug court program.
“Obviously the state of Georgia has been in a financial crisis for a number of years, and we’ve been in a hiring freeze as well as a promotion freeze. We applied last year and actually did not receive the additional person. This spring we reapplied again, and based on our needs, the state of Georgia granted us an additional prosecutor to handle the responsibilities of drug court as well as help with the drug cases in the circuit,” said Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Rosemary Greene.
The circuit used the funding to designate a drug prosecutor and hire an additional assistant district attorney, which brought the circuit to 11 prosecutors including Greene.
“So, within the office, we moved Mr. Erle Newton, who has been an assistant in this office for over a year and came to us with experience in the Alcovy Circuit, to be our newest drug prosecutor,” Greene said. “He will be handling the major drug cases in both counties as well as the responsibilities of drug court. He’ll be working hand in hand with the drug task forces and all Adairsville, Bartow County and Gordon County and kind of liaison for our office and them.
“We then were fortunate enough to get Mr. David Lee Lumpkin from the Public Defenders Office. He has been over there for a number of years. We actually started in the courtroom together several years ago on opposite sides and have tried cases against each other. ... He does a great job and just the entire office is excited to have his experience and personality working with us.”
Lumpkin, a Dalton native, was sworn in Tuesday morning by Superior Court Judge Carey Nelson, who offered counsel to the newest prosecutor.
“... You have now an added obligation — that is to make sure that you do justice, not just win or lose cases. That’s critically important. Exercise your prosecutorial discretion,” Nelson said. “... I look forward to having you in my courtroom.”
After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia, Lumpkin graduated from the Georgia State University College of Law in 2009.
“My dad just said, ‘Don’t be a doctor.’ It’s kind of, you have to know where your interests and strengths lie and [law] just seemed like a natural fit for me,” he said.
Calling the circuit a “wonderful” place with “a down-home feel,” Lumpkin said he was looking forward to beginning with the DA’s office and seeing things from the other side of the courtroom.
“It’ll be an interesting situation getting both perspectives seeing how the cases dealt with on the prosecutorial side. I’m looking forward to probably continuing to help people; I think I was able to help a lot of people at the Public Defenders Office and I think I can help a lot of people here,” he said.
Newton, a 2009 Mercer University School of Law graduate, joined the Cherokee Judicial Circuit after two years in the Alcovy Circuit, covering Newton and Walton counties.
“Last year Rosemary was kind enough to call me up and invite me over to the Cherokee Circuit and since I have family here in the circuit I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.
With his focus now on drug cases and drug court, Newton hopes to establish a smoother process for those cases falling on his desk.
“I’m really excited to be able to specialize and to handle some of these cases, which can be complex, often multiple-defendant cases,” he said. “And I’m really excited to be working with the [Bartow-Cartersville] Drug Task Force here in Bartow and the drug enforcement bureau up in Gordon County and to develop a really good working relationship with the agencies in the counties so that we’ll be more efficient in prosecuting drug cases, so that we’ll be more uniform in how we prosecute our cases. It will be good to have one person who can see the big picture of drugs in both counties in this circuit.”
Greene echoed Newton’s statement.
“We’re able to spread cases out [through this funding],” she said. “... As Bartow County — and Gordon County — continue to grow, our numbers and the crime rate continues, and we’ve been at a frozen personnel position for a number of years and this allows us to have more room to be able to process cases faster.”