ATLANTA — Fani T. Willis strode up to a podium in a red dress last year in downtown Atlanta, flanked by an array of dark suits and stone-faced officers in uniform. Her voice rang out loud and clear, with a hint of swagger.
“If you thought Fulton was a good county to bring your crime to, to bring your violence to, you are wrong,” she said, facing a bank of news cameras. “And you are going to suffer consequences.”
Ms Willis is the first Black woman to lead Georgia’s largest district attorney’s office. In her 19 years as a prosecutor, she has led more than 100 jury trials and handled hundreds of murder cases. Since she became chief prosecutor, her office’s conviction rate has stood at close to 90 percent, according to a spokesperson.
Her experience is the source of her confidence, which appears unshaken by the scrutiny — and criticism — brought by the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his allies who tried to overturn his narrow 2020 election loss in Georgia.
Ms. Willis tends to speak as if the world were her jury box. Sometimes she is colloquial and warm. In an interview, she noted, as an aside, how much she loved Valentine’s Day: “Put that in there, in case I get a new boo,” she said.
But she can also throw sharp elbows: In a heated email exchange in July over the terms of a grand jury appearance by Gov. Brian Kemp, Ms. Willis called the governor’s lawyer, Brian McEvoy, “wrong and confused,” and “rude,” among other things.
“You have taken my kindness as weakness,” she wrote, adding: “Despite your disdain this investigation continues and will not be derailed by anyone’s antics.”
As a child, Ms. Willis split time between her divorced parents. Her father was a former Black Panther and criminal defense lawyer who practiced in the Washington, D.C., area. He brought her to the courthouse often and put her to work as his file clerk starting in elementary school. A career in law, she said, was never in doubt.
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