Stacey Jackson

Stacey Jackson makes closing arguments during a 2022 trial. Jackson, who was appointed as district attorney in 2022 for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit by Gov. Brian Kemp, died May 2024.

Credit: Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer

Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stacey Jackson has died, authorities said.

Jackson was 50 years old and had been battling illness, causing him to take extended medical leave from his office.

Appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp, he was sworn in as district attorney in May 2022.

Before that, the Harris County native was regarded as one of the area’s top defense attorneys, known for his combative court arguments, aggressive cross-examinations of witnesses and his commitment to doing the best he could for his clients.

He was long considered a top contender for the bench, as judges retired and governors sought replacements to appoint, but he never made the final cut. He set that dream aside when he was asked to become the circuit’s chief prosecutor.

The district attorney’s office is up for election this year in the six-county judicial circuit that includes Muscogee, Harris, Talbot, Taylor, Chattahoochee and Marion.

Acting District Attorney Don Kelly, who has been in charge since Jackson took medical leave in late November, has qualified as Republican to succeed Jackson. The primary is May 21 and the general election on Nov. 5.

He started out as an assistant district attorney before going into private practice in 2008, and took a pay cut to return to being a prosecutor when the circuit needed someone to replace ousted District Attorney Mark Jones. Jones served just 10 months in office in 2021, before he was suspended and later pleaded guilty to misconduct.

Critics said Jones left the office in shambles, firing most of the experienced staff and erratically handling some murder cases himself, leading to setbacks.

When Kemp needed someone to rebuild trust and confidence in the office, Jackson took the call. He was credited with having restored much of what was lost, rehiring prosecutors Jones had fired, dropping some questionable cases and bringing others to trial or plea.

He and his staff were working on clearing a backlog of cases caused by COVID-19 lockdowns and other impediments, before he was sidelined by illness.

Stacey Jackson

District Attorney Stacey Jackson.

Credit: Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer

Who was Stacey Jackson?

Jackson credited his parents, Laura and Arnold Jackson, and his rural Harris County upbringing as crucial factors in forging his character.

They taught him that working hard and giving every endeavor his best effort would gain him respect and honor, he said.

He had no social media, growing up in the country in the 1980s and 1990s, so he was influenced by what he saw on TV.

As a child he watched TV shows such as L.A. Law and Law & Order, which had some characters who looked like him.

On Law & Order, the district attorney had an assistant prosecutor who handled many of the trials.

“He was a Black male, and he was a really good prosecutor on the show,” Jackson recalled. “That was a particular character that I kind of keyed in on, because it was one of the few shows where you saw a Black male attorney and then also a prosecutor…. It would just be something that as a young Black male, young teenager, being able to see that and say, ‘Well, that’s what I want to be.’”

It was not what his mother wanted him to be.

“My mom wanted me to go to medical school, but I didn’t like all the blood and guts and stuff. That wasn’t my thing.”

He graduated from Harris County High School in 1992, got an undergraduate degree in criminal justice in 1996 from Albany State University, and earned his law degree in 1999 at the University of Dayton.

Jackson decided as a young prosecutor that the courtroom was his arena. He didn’t want to sit in an office, but to look jurors in the eye and argue.

“That’s just where I feel comfortable, in front of a jury, arguing a case, in front of a judge, versus just being behind a computer, typing and reading transcripts,” he said.

Besides his parents, he is survived by his two sons, Andrew and Aiden.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with the Telegraph.