BARTOW BIO — After 20 years, Campbell rests his case as district attorney
by Jessica Loeding
Feb 26, 2012 | 3202 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joseph Campbell leaves an impression -- on judge, jury, witness and press. His imposing manner and no-nonsense demeanor make him a force inside the courtroom -- and out.

Before Campbell began his battle in the courtroom, he spent 11 months in Vietnam where he as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Commendation Medal for his service.

Campbell began his career in the mid-1970s, serving as the first paid assistant district attorney in the Seventh Judicial Circuit's Cherokee Judicial Circuit, covering Bartow and Gordon counties, from 1976 to 1980. He then was an attorney in Calhoun from 1980 to 1992, served as a city of Calhoun attorney for eight years and a Gordon County Board of Education attorney for six years.

Although he had no plans to enter politics when he began his career, in 1992 Campbell was elected district attorney for the circuit. In 2008 -- the first time he faced opposition for the DA seat since 1996 -- he had under his belt more than 110 jury trials; prosecuted more than 55 homicide incidents and five death penalty cases; advised more than 120 grand juries; and served as counsel for the state in more than 40 appellate cases.

After 20 years, this will be the district attorney's last -- Campbell plans to retire at the end of his current term.

Name: T. Joseph Campbell

Age: 65

Occupation: District attorney since December 1992.

City of Residence: Calhoun, Gordon County, since 1974.

Family: Wife, Sherry N. Campbell; two children, daughter McCall Govignon of Calhoun and son Forrest L. Campbell of Castle Rock, Colo.; and, most importantly, four grandchildren, Campbell and Catherine Govignon, and Josie and Hunter Campbell.

Education: Bachelor's in Economics from Vanderbilt University in 1968 and juris doctor from the University of Georgia in 1974.

When you began your law career, did your plans include being district attorney?

A: Not really, but in 1976 when I became the first state paid assistant in the circuit, I began to think that it was an excellent opportunity to provide service to the public and was very rewarding.

Of the cases you have tried, which is the most memorable or had the biggest impact on you? Why?

A: I have been involved in prosecuting through trial over 40 homicide cases, and because of that, I have had many rewarding experiences and some disappointments along the way.

The case that was the most impactful in Bartow was the Eric Perkinson death penalty trial back in 1999. It was the most highly publicized and scrutinized before or since. There were difficult issues to tackle such as mental retardation and various expert testimonies to deal with, but it still resonates with me because as a father with a son around the age of the victim, Louis Nava, as well as the defendant himself it was an extremely emotional time. The relationships built with the victim's family were amazing and last even today as Louis' mother is a volunteer in our victim assistance office.

Is there an aspect of the judicial system you would change? If so, what and why?

A: I am a strong advocate for our system, specifically the jury system; however, if there is one area that needs overhaul, it is death penalty appeals. The multitude appeal proceedings and delays of the process are absurd. The cost of the trial itself can bankrupt a local government. There needs to be a policy decision made by our legislators to state yes or no once and for all whether this sentence will be imposed and, if so, the appeal process, as well as the trial needs to be streamlined and timely but assuring fairness to the defendant. Will that day ever come? I do not know, but I am not optimistic. Until it does, the credibility of the system is damaged and all too often, as recently occurred, a mockery of justice happens.

Having seen the growth in Bartow County -- and the prospect of future development -- how has the DA's office grown to accommodate the increasing caseload? And what changes do you foresee for the Bartow County court system?

A: My assistants are all fairly technically savvy and I have been able through local, state and drug forfeiture funds to upgrade our equipment fairly well. It is the sheer number of misdemeanor cases that cry out for change and that needs to be through creation of a State Court to handle these type cases. When the number of misdemeanors in Bartow exceed the total cases in Gordon, it's time to do something different, which is not just adding another Superior Court judge.

Which TV or film lawyer do you most relate to and why?

A: Brian Dennehy for obvious reasons.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

A: I'm pretty straight forward and open guy, but I guess that I enjoy the arts, i.e., museums and plays, but not operas.

What makes Bartow County special?

A: The people, because this is a community of very involved and informed folks, especially concerning politics and government. This is a community that is more color-blind than most and people of all races and ethnic background are part of the local decision-making process. Finally, the quality of life is second to none with all the cultural and entertainment opportunities available.

What talent do you lack that you would love to have?

A: Singing.

What is your favorite meal?

A: My wife is an excellent cook, although it is not something she relishes. Currently, I enjoy her Shepherd's Pie the most.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things could you not live without?

A: My family, ESPN and Auburn football.