The chief prosecutor’s job in the Augusta Judicial Circuit is as much about building relationships in the community as bringing justice.
That’s the outlook of both Ashley Wright, who is hoping to keep her job as district attorney Nov. 6, and her Democratic challenger, Evita Paschall.
Wright was appointed to her position in 2007 and ran unopposed the next year. Her drive to bring justice to victims of crimes – particularly children – remains just as strong as it was 16 years ago when she signed on as a prosecutor, Wright said.
“They are the reason we do this,” Wright said. When her assistant district attorneys need encouragement, Wright reminds them “the people we represent need us. We are performing an extraordinary service to the community and it is a privilege.”
For Paschall, the district attorney position represents an opportunity to bring a lifetime of legal knowledge and eight years experience as a prosecutor to the post. She previously ran in 2007 for U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood’s seat in Congress. From that race, Paschall said she determined that her next campaign would be for a position that she is “thoroughly good at.”
Paschall served as an assistant solicitor in state court and magistrate court between 1984-88. She also served as solicitor of magistrate court and the municipal court judge from 1994-98. She currently practices civil law.
Trying cases is “second nature to me,” Paschall said.
“I could try a case in my sleep I’ve done it so often,” she said.
Wright’s experience includes more than 80 felony trials and prosecuting four death penalty cases. Paschall has not taken a death penalty case to trial.
The district attorney and her assistants are responsible for prosecuting felony crimes in Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties. It’s also a managerial job, supervising 21 assistant district attorneys, five investigators, five victim advocates and 11 administrative assistants. The fiscal year budget for 2012 was $2.1 million. Wright said she’s fostered a family atmosphere in her office.
“We take care of each other, both work-wise and personally,” Wright said.
Paschall said she believes in delegating and trusting her employees to perform their assigned tasks until there is a problem.
“I don’t baby-sit,” Paschall said. “I assume that if I hire you that you will come to work on time and do what you’re suppose to do as an employee.”
Wright said one of her goals if re-elected is to implement a system that speeds up the adjudication process. Her vision is electronic file sharing using software between her office and law enforcement in the three counties of her district. That will create a comprehensive criminal file faster, Wright said.
“We’re working on timing and speed,” Wright said.
Paschall said that if elected, she would create a speakers bureau to provide the community with informative discussions on crime. For instance, she would like teenagers to understand the child pornography laws they are breaking when sending graphic photos to each other with their cell phones.
Paschall said her overall strengths are that she is an excellent prosecutor and well-known in the community. “Justice you know and trust” is her campaign slogan.
“That’s what I’ve lived by as an attorney,” Paschall said. “You go in the community and ask about Evita Paschall and that’s what you get from the community.”
Wright will say goodbye to one her assistants, Parks White, in January when he takes a position as district attorney in the North Georgia Circuit. Asked what advice she has for him, from one district attorney to another, Wright said: “Think first, speak second.”
There are many people you must build connections with as a district attorney, Wright said, from court personnel to law enforcement and judges. What’s important is that you gain their support, Wright said.
“I think I can continue to help make a difference in the community and I want that privilege,” Wright said.