PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. — Visitors to the Paulding County District Attorney's Office in Georgia were appalled at what they say is an inappropriate Halloween display in the office.
The display is of a skeleton with crime scene markers taped around it – seemingly depicting a murder victim – in the middle of the lobby.
WSB-TV's Aaron Diamant talked to a local ethics expert, who called the display wildly unprofessional and said it has the potential to retraumatize crime victims who have to come to the office to talk to prosecutors.
Diamant spoke to the woman who took the picture. Lauri Newsome said she went to the District Attorney's Office with a few family members to try to get a meeting with District Attorney Dick Donovan about a sensitive case.
She was outraged to find the fake crime scene.
"You step back. It startles you," Newsome said. "It doesn't help how you're feeling. I think if I'd had a family member murdered it would have affected me worse."
Newsome fought back tears as she described being startled by the display.
"You're not there for a happy reason anyway, and that's just not something you want to see when you're a victim or family of a victim," Newsome said. "It was just absolutely poor judgment on their part to do something like that."
Newsome said that when she confronted employees about it, they said they deal with bad things every day and needed to blow off some steam and laugh.
But like Newsome, Edward Queen with Emory University's Center for Ethics fails to see the humor.
“It’s going to suggest at a bare minimum, first of all, a complete disregard for their feelings, their experiences, and arguably could radically retraumatize certain people who’ve been victimized by violence," Queen said.
Queen said the display clearly crosses professional and ethical lines.
"You have to ask, 'Where's the adult in the room?'" Queen said. "It clearly suggests a level of inconsideration, a level of coarseness that we ought not to experience from public officials."
Newsome posted the image on Facebook to send a message.
"The District Attorney's Office is here to serve the needs of the taxpayers, the victims in their community," Newsome said. "And that is who they should put first, and they should look at everything they do through that standpoint first."
The display has since been taken down, but Queen said the district attorney still has some explaining to do.
"Admit that it was an attempt at humor in our office. It was unthinking, it was unfortunate, we regret that we hadn't thought this through better, and we apologize to people," Queen suggested the office say.
Diamant contacted Donovan, who did not return text messages. Diamant did get in touch with his chief deputy, who said, "No comment."
Cox Media Group