Broady and Allen face off in Cobb District Attorney candidate debate

Sonya Allen (L) and Cobb DA Flynn Broady (R)

Photo by Caleb Groves

By Caleb Groves

Last Thursday’s forum at Zion Baptist Church for the Cobb District Attorney’s Office quickly shifted into heated debate.

An estimated 80 to 100 live audience members attended the forum, said AikWah Leow, the Communications Manager for the Cobb County District Attorney’s office.

In her opening statements at Zion Baptist Church, challenger Fulton County Deputy District Attorney Sonya Allen set the tone for the DA forum after criticizing incumbent Cobb District Attorney Flynn Broady Jr.’s handling of police shootings and his decision not to retry Justin Ross Harris for the death of his 22-month-old child, who died of hyperthermia in a hot car.

“That’s what led me to seek justice,” Allen said.

“My decision was based on the Supreme Court taking away a particular amount of evidence that was used to go forward,” Broady said in answer to Allen’s charge. “And the thing about that evidence was evidence that old prosecutors had put into place to try to overcharge someone to make sure they got a conviction. That’s not the way I work.”

Restorative justice

Both candidates highlighted the importance of finding alternatives to purely punitive measures such as incarceration.

Allen said role of a DA is to advocate for both the rights of the victim and the defendant. She spoke about the value of rehabilitation for non-violent offenders through counseling and accountability courts.

“For me, it starts and ends with the victims, Allen explained. “Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on rehabilitation.”

Broady honed in on what he has done in his four-year term and what the county is currently doing to cut recidivism rates through measures like the alternative resolution courts.

“What it does (the alternative resolution court), it takes all non-violent offenders, only non-violent offenders, and it gives them an opportunity to do something productive to do, and uncover the issues that brought them to the criminal justice system, and to make sure that we correct them and put them back on a path to be a productive citizen,” Broady said.

He said the Cobb DA’s office broke records by trying over 200 cases in a three-year span, and said that Cobb is the safest county in metro Atlanta.

He also brought up the family advocacy center, which provides victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking support, resources and the opportunity to get away from abusers.

Legislative issues

Broady denounced Senate Bill 332, which grants the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission the power to discipline DAs for poor conduct, barring Supreme Court oversight.

“They want to control what charges we decide not to prosecute,” he said. “They want to make sure that we look at every single case. But that’s something we’re already doing. We look at every single case.”

Broady and Allen are concerned with how this new law could dictate how abortions are prosecuted. Though pro-choice, Broady said he does not condone abortions.

“I have dealt with many obstacles when it came to my race, when it came to my gender,” Allen said. “And so to see what is happening today with recent legislation that I believe is nothing but an attack on rising Black women. I feel that it is a means to block the voice of the voters.”

Grand Juries

Allen and Broady split on the use of grand juries. Allen raised concerns about how Cobb deals with grand juries, in part due to what she said was the lack of transparency because of their closed nature.

She said she would “revamp how officer shooting cases are presented to grand juries and investigated. Those cases would go through a process. That is what I do, a majority of my time at the district attorney’s office in Fulton. We get those cases and we start the investigation all over again.”

Broady said that all grand jury proceedings are transcribed by court reporters for the purpose of transparency in Cobb.

“We don’t allow political games to take or make our decisions and we don’t allow our biases to make our decisions,” he said. “We do it the right way each and every time.”

Later, he said the office is working toward creating a conviction integrity unit to review cases with a citizen review panel.

Like Broady’s program to get fathers more involved in their children’s lives through the All Pro Dads program, Allen said she wants more community engagement in the office with a Junior DA program, like the one implemented in Fulton County.

In Allen’s closing remarks, she accused Broady of having ulterior motives for his community service and only participates in it because of his title.

“I do things through my community, through service, through my sorority,” Allen said. “It doesn’t take a title for me to engage in my community. It takes just my willingness to want to help my community.”

Broady said, “She made the implication that the only reason I do community service is because of my position. That is far from the truth. One of the reasons why I fell in love with my wife is because we used to go feed the homeless together. We used to go down to Pine Street and feed the homeless. I do so many things through my church.”

“I have done many things in this community long before I had a title,” he said.

Advance voting for the primary and nonpartisan election begins tomorrow, April 29, and election day is May 21.