ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - With less than a week before Georgia's primary, an emotional ad has become a debating point between two attorney general candidates.
A new television ad for Democratic state Rep. Rob Teilhet, featuring a grief-stricken mother urging the public not to vote for opponent Ken Hodges, has people talking.
In the 30-second spot, Kenneth Walker's mother, Emily, criticizes Hodges, a former district attorney, for failing to secure a grand jury indictment against the deputy who shot and killed her unarmed son in a case that exposed racial tensions in west Georgia.
"He was lying on the ground unarmed when a police officer shot him twice in the head," Emily Walker says in the ad, which began airing last week. "But the officer got off because the prosecutor, Ken Hodges, forgot to swear him in, tried to hide the video and then refused to reopen the case. I could never get an answer why."
The ad has put Hodges on the defensive ahead of the July 20 primary, forcing him to answer questions about the handling of the case.
"The death of Kenneth Walker was a tragedy, and my heart continues to be with the family," Hodges said during a Sunday candidate debate. "The fact that my opponent wants to exploit the family's grief and use it for political purposes is, quite frankly, disgusting."
Teilhet has defended the ad, saying Hodges is running on his experience and the Walker case is an important part of Hodges' record.
"Mr. Hodges' campaign is almost completely based on his experience as a prosecutor," Teilhet said at Sunday's debate. "Any discussion of that experience must include a discussion of the Walker case."
Kenneth Walker was pulled over in December 2003 after officers said they watched him leave a home that was staked out during a drug investigation. Video shows Muscogee County sheriff's deputy David Glisson shooting Walker in the head, killing him. No drugs or firearms were found in the vehicle or on any of its occupants.
Hodges, a former Dougherty County district attorney, was appointed the special prosecutor to present the case to the Muscogee County grand jury in November 2004. The panel decided not to indict Glisson, stirring racial tensions in Columbus because Walker was black and the deputy is white.
Hodges and his supporters have worked to discount Teilhet's claims.
In an Associated Press article Wednesday, Greg Edwards, who was Hodges' co-counsel in the Walker case, said Hodges never tried to hide the video and has repeatedly said he would bring the case back to a grand jury if there was new evidence.
The case did prompt Georgia lawmakers to pass legislation this year requiring prosecutors to swear in all witnesses who testify in front of grand juries.