By Anna-Claire Terry
“Once I was old enough to realize what this particular kind of work was all about, I knew that was what I wanted to do.” So said Lee County District Attorney (incumbent and reelection hopeful) Robbie Treese. What appealed to Treese about the job was the thought that he could impact someone’s life, even a small impact. The Auburn University and Jones School of Law alum has been practicing law since 1996. He was elected district attorney in November of 2010.
Within a week of becoming the district attorney-elect, Treese assisted with a high profile capital murder trial. “I literally went from the frying pan to the fire,” he said.
Treese has tried more capital murder and felony jury cases than anyone in the county since he took office in January of 2011. Treese is a seasoned veteran in the Lee County court system. “Every bit of my prosecution experience is right here in Lee County,” he added.
There are five full-time and four part-time prosecutors working under Treese. His office has seen much success in recent years. The child support division has broken collection records, and the pre-jury trial conviction rate has risen well over 100 percent. “To say that we are aggressive prosecutors is to understate the obvious,” Treese said. He added that part of the reason for the rise in conviction rates is his method of trying multi-count indictments all at once under one case number and before a single jury. According to Treese, this is more efficient because fewer charges are dropped and time and money are saved.
He is also responsible for several changes and developments in the Lee County Justice Center. Treese had a room designed for children who are required to testify or come to court. This room promotes relaxation with its toys and playful scenes painted on the walls. Also added to the new wing was a jury training room and a waiting area to separate juries from each other as well as from the public.
Treese said the best and worst part of his job has to do with the victims. While it is a great feeling to be able to help them, he hates that they have to suffer so much. He makes sure that his office takes special steps to provide victims and their families with as much comfort as possible. “The victims have to be considered in everything. I don’t pretend to know or understand what they go through, but we have to be exceptionally sensitive to it,” he said. “I have said many times that the very second these horrible things don’t bother me anymore is the second I will have to go. You’re not human if you don’t lose it sometimes.”
Treese added that he realizes attorneys and court officials do not face the horror in the same way the victims do and that that is ever-present. He said he leans on those close to him and is thankful to have a support system in place and the moments he gets to tell victims that “we got him” and “it’s all over” make it worth it.
If reelected, Treese has several things he would like to focus on. He credits Lee County’s reputation for excellence in hiring what he calls “combat prosecutors.” “My goal is to find the talent and develop them into really good trial prosecutors and keep them in Lee County for a long time,” he said. Lee County prosecutors get hands-on training in the courtroom, at crime scenes and at national training sessions.
Treese also believes Alabama needs truth in sentencing. “There are only vacancies in Alabama’s prisons for the most violent criminals. People get these great sentences that sound great, but we don’t know how much they will actually serve,” he said. “It isn’t an exact science and it absolutely needs to be.”
Treese added that he has always been focused on innovation and getting better. He would like to transition into communicating and transferring files with the Opelika P.D., the Auburn P.D. and the Lee County Sheriff’s office electronically.
Treese and his wife Traci live in Auburn and have a son, a daughter, and an “insane” dog. Treese is highly involved with the community and First Presbyterian Church of Auburn. When he is not on the job, he enjoys spending his time doing anything outdoors.