Clark, Cochran do battle over district attorney general’s post

Published 8:16 am Friday, May 2, 2014

First Judicial District Attorney General Tony Clark, who has held the position for eight years, is being challenged in the Republican Primary by Elizabethton attorney Jerome Cochran.
The district includes Carter, Johnson, Washington and Unicoi counties.
Clark, who is seeking his second term, served the district as an assistant district attorney general for 12 years before being elected DA.
Cochran, 41, is a former state representative. He was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2002. While serving in the state legislature, Cochran was a member of the Children and Family Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Domestic Relations Committee, the Constitutional Protections Subcommittee and the Civil Practice and Procedures Committee.
Cochran served two terms in the Tennessee House before being unseated by Rep. Kent Williams in 2006.
Cochran graduated from Happy Valley High School and completed his undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee. He received his law degree from Regent School of Law in Virginia Beach, Va.
Cochran says he believes he can restore the public’s faith in the office’s ability to bring criminals to justice and protect the public. He contends that here has been a loss of confidence in the office by the public and a waste of taxpayer dollars due to what he calls questionable decisions in the DA’s office.
Cochran specifically pointed to several murder charges the office has unsuccessfully prosecuted, especially that of a Johnson City man accused of killing his mother.
However, the problems surrounding the murder charges against Cody Miller being dismissed lie with the Johnson City Police Department, according to the judge who threw out Miller’s confession.
Cochran in pointing to his opponent’s record said Clark had never filed a death penalty notice despite having several cases that meet the statutory requirement. “The last death penalty notice filed in this district was by Joe Crumley, against Howard Hawk Willis. In the last eight years not one death penalty notice has been filed,” Cochran said.
Cochran said if elected he wants to aggressively target the methamphetamine “epidemic” by seeking substantial jail time “for all-meth related crimes, whether it be a first offense or fifth offense.”
Cochran has received the support of former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris, who Clark unsuccessfully attempted to convict of official misconduct.
Clark said he was sure there are people out there who support the former sheriff and were not happy with the charges he presented to the grand jury. “I don’t have this position to make people happy,” Clark said. “I make decisions based on the law. That’s what I’ve done since I started.”
“When first elected in 2006, I made a promise to the citizens to base my decisions on what is right, not what is popular. I have fulfilled that promise,” Clark said. “The job of district attorney general always involves controversial cases,” and Clark said he is confident that he has made the right decisions in those cases.
Clark said he has “the proven ability to carry out the many duties of the district attorney general, and I’m the most experienced and qualified candidate for the position.”
Over the past eight years, Clark has not only handled administrative duties of his office, but also handles cases in the courtroom.
“I’ve learned a lot while serving as a prosecutor, and I’ve put this knowledge to use seeking justice for the citizens of the district,” he said.
One thing Clark is particularly proud of during his tenure is the establishment of an attorney position to prosecute cases from Johnson City in the U.S. Federal Court.
“This is the only program of its kind in the country,” Clark said. It has played a crucial role in the successful convictions and tougher sentencing of numerous serious criminals in Johnson City.
The district attorney general is also responsible for the administration of the Child Support Division, which collected $13.6 million in the last fiscal year.
Clark, a resident of Jonesborough, studied criminology at East Tennessee State University and received his law degree from the University of Tennessee.

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