Originally created 12/30/04

Prosecutors credit success to investigators



When the prosecuting attorney wows a jury with a seemingly flawless presentation of evidence, the person who helped make that possible is the quiet man or woman manning the technology and lugging the boxes of evidence.

"It was a lot more than just showing up and carrying boxes," Assistant District Attorney Ashley Wright said of the office's investigators' involvement of one of Augusta's biggest trials in 2004.

In the January capital murder trial of Reinaldo Rivera, investigators Glenn Rowland and Al Williams worked with Ms. Wright long before the trial began.

"Glenn and Al went through every piece of evidence and went over which pieces were best for what we needed to show and when we needed to introduce each piece to the jury," Ms. Wright said.

Although it's usually District Attorney Danny Craig or one of his assistants who get their pictures in the newspapers and on television, the investigators are invaluable, Mr. Craig said.

Out of the limelight, the investigators take in and process more than 8,000 warrants from nine law enforcement agencies each year.

Their work includes finding and interviewing witnesses, obtaining criminal histories, handling all evidence collected at crime scenes and ensuring it is properly marked and recorded for trial, coordinating prosecution with the progress of scientific analysis, and helping attorneys work out how to present evidence and witnesses at every stage of the process - from bond and preliminary hearings through trial and sentencing, Mr. Craig said in an e-mail. They also are on call 24/7 to advise and assist prosecutors and law enforcement, he said.

Mr. Rowland, the chief investigator, worked for the sheriff's office for 13 years before joining the prosecutor's office 15 years ago.

"The district attorney's office is much more interesting, to me," he said.

Officers work hard to solve crimes, but at the district attorney's office, Mr. Rowland said, he can see the end of cases by helping prosecutors convict those who commit the crimes.

All of the investigators have law enforcement backgrounds and attend annual training to maintain their certification, Mr. Rowland said.

Mr. Williams worked as an investigator in Augusta and Burke County and taught at the law enforcement training academy, Mr. Rowland said.

"He's my go-to man. He can do anything," Mr. Rowland said.

Because the investigators are former officers, they know how to get the information needed to prove a case, Ms. Wright said. They help the attorneys get that job done, and they bring an extra perspective into the courtroom, she said.

She credited Deborah Young with helping put a massive and unwieldy child molestation case into a cohesive prosecution package. The father and two sons who were molesting two little girls in their family were convicted.

Dan Robinson helps with the asset forfeiture cases and keeps track of all the bench warrant cases, she said.

"And Virgil (D'Antignac) can flat-out find anybody. It's the best talent," Ms. Wright said.

"They make sure we set our best foot forward."

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.