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Jessica Yeary Promises Reforms After Swearing-In As 2nd Judicial Circuit Public Defender

Jessica Yeary
Jessica Yeary being sworn-in virtually as public defender

The Second Judicial Circuit has a new public defender. Jessica Yeary was sworn in Tuesday. Public defenders represent people who cannot afford private lawyers. During her campaign, Yeary promised criminal justice reform, and in her swearing-in speech, she reiterated that commitment.

“Brian Stevenson tells us that Our system treats you better if your rich and guilty, than if you are innocent and poor. We see these issues in our backyard. Our neighbors…living in the 2304, is one of the poorest zip codes in the state. This is not equity. And this is not right," she said.

Yeary is part of a new wave of progressive faces in Leon County government.

“Our days and sometimes nights in the courtroom and offices…meant we got to help a 19-year-old keep his job and keep a clean record," Yeary said, "sometimes it meant we got to hold the hand of a mother as her child went into custody, or sit with a clients as we explained the gravity and weight of lengthy prison sentenced from minimum mandatory [sentences]. But sometimes it meant we got a judge and six jurors to agree with us that a 16-year-old was not guilty, and we held his hand as he was released back into his life.”

Yeary also quoted the case of Hightower v. State, which explains the work of a public defender, “can be draining and tiresome, but it is critical and meaningful.”

The circuit covers Leon, Jefferson, Gadsden, Wakulla and Liberty Counties. Yeary defeated former public defender Andy Thomas in August. Voters also chose Tiffany Baker as circuit judge.