A servant to his people and the community, Gerald Griggs hopes to work himself out of criminal defense by reducing the mass incarceration of African Americans and through educating and mentoring the community on their legal rights. What better way to merge activism and educating others on the criminal justice system than to become a lawyer?
“The criminal justice system has evolved from innocent until proven guilty into proving your innocence…As long as I am an attorney, there will no longer be a double standard of the law,” Griggs said.
Griggs set a precedent for the city of Atlanta and others with the National Anti-Bullying Movement, mirrored after his most notable case, Jaheem Herrera.
10-year-old Herrera, a victim of bullying, committed suicide in 2009. Seeking to become an impetus for change in schools and communities, Griggs began aggressively lobbying to strengthen Georgia’s Anti-Bullying Law for current and future victims of bullying, in regards to age, grade, etc.
He rallied the community and engaged law officials for support. Traveling around the country and to Metro Atlanta Schools, he advocates and educates students about bullying and how they can contribute to helping the victim. Georgia’s Anti-Bullying Law is now one of the toughest laws in the nation.
“If you don't get any laws changed or people's minds thinking, nothing is going to happen. [The law] was a success, but now we have to implement it,” Griggs said.
Griggs began his career in criminal justice after being influenced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the late Johnnie Cochran at a young age. A highlight of his career was hearing Johnnie Cochran’s daughter, Tiffany, tell him, “My father would be so proud, not because of what you do in the courtroom, but because of the work you do in the community,” Griggs said.
Many remember Griggs from the FOX News interview with his client, Latausha Nedd, and journalist Megyn Kelly. Nedd was accused of making threats towards police officers and white people in a video posted on YouTube. Griggs alleges she was defending herself against someone who threatened her. According to Griggs, she was sending the message that bad police officers killing unarmed individuals were the one ones who need to be prosecuted, not her. He believes she will be exonerated due to the fact that she was merely exercising her right to free speech under the First Amendment.
“It’s ludicrous for the people who exercise free speech to be prosecuted. Just because you don't like the speech does not criminalize it,” Griggs said. “She was merely a victim of the undercurrent in social media of hate.”
As we slowly approach the anniversary of longest trial case in Georgia, Griggs mentioned his involvement in handling the Atlanta Public School cheating case. In 2009, a state investigation found evidence of cheating within several schools. Years later, 35 APS employees were issued criminal indictments under the RICO act, which was passed to combat Mafia Groups.
The case hit close to home for Griggs, who attended Atlanta Public Schools from kindergarten to sixth grade. His mother was also an APS educator for almost 40 years. He joined several community activists in front of the Fulton County courthouse asking for the release of his client Angela Williamson and the other educators after their sentencing.
Many believe there was pressure to convict and make an example of APS for future school systems. Griggs only hopes his client and the other teachers will be cleared and the source of the problem will be addressed instead of assigning blame.
“The trial should have highlighted the broken system instead of broken people…a disservice was done to all parties (teachers, students and school system); that's the part no one has found the answers to and that's the part no one has fixed.”
Motivating African Americans everywhere, Griggs enforces that we should utilize our various platforms to educate others and not repeat history. He hopes to see more positive images of African Americans in the media, especially in music, referencing the recent music of Beyoncé (Formation), J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.
“We have been the victim of some of the most atrocious crimes in history but that should motivate us. We’re not battered, we’re not deterred...We came from a generation of kings and queens and we have to start viewing ourselves as such,” Griggs said.
A justice fighter for his clients and his community, Gerald Griggs is certainly on the RYSE to making significant impacts by uplifting and educating people on their legal rights.
Griggs has served hundred of clients within the Metro-Atlanta area for over 10 years. In 2014, he received the HERO Award for Community Activism from Auburn University. He was recently inducted into the National Trial Lawyers Top 100. He also holds office with the Atlanta Chapter of the National Association of Colored People and the Criminal Justice Committee of the Georgia Chapter of NAACP.
For more information on Gerald Griggs, visit www.therightattorneyrightnow.com.