By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Alabama Attorney General Jimmy Evans, who successfully prosecuted the state’s governor in an ethics case in the 1990s, died Monday. He was 81.
His death was confirmed by Brian T. Gallion, the operator of Southern Memorial Funeral Home which is handling the funeral arrangements for the family. Gallion said he was not authorized to give a cause of death. Services will be held Monday.
Evans was Alabama’s attorney general from 1991 to 1995. He is best known for the 1993 prosecution and conviction of then-Gov. Guy Hunt on charges of stealing $ 200,000 from an inaugural fund. Evans also pushed for passage of legislation to give crime victims a greater voice in the criminal justice system and was a mentor to many young attorneys, said friends and former colleagues.
“He was one of the fairest people I have ever known,” former Montgomery County District attorney Ellen Brooks recalled.
Brooks, who worked with Evans many years, said he “could be tough as nails when the situation required,” such as prosecuting a horrific murder case. But he could also be gracious and kind in dealing with victims or giving a second chance to a first-time nonviolent offender, she recalled.
“People would come into the courtroom to listen and watch him. He was that good,” Brooks said of Evans’s closing arguments.
He previously served as the district attorney of Montgomery.
“He was a victims’ rights champion through and through and through,” said Miriam Shehane, who founded the advocacy Victims of Crime and Leniency, after the murder of her daughter, 21-year-old Birmingham college coed Quenette Shehane. Evans is the person who suggested they organize, she said.
Shehane and Brooks said Evans helped push for changes in the law, including: allowing victims to remain in the courtroom during trials; giving both defense and prosecution the same number of juror strikes and requiring victim notification of plea deals.
“He had a remarkable impact on many lawyers’ careers including mine,” said attorney Steve Feaga, who led the Hunt prosecution for Evans.
Evans’s name would become forever linked with the Hunt prosecution that led to the ouster of the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Hunt was automatically removed from office after being convicted of the felony.
Hunt and others had complained that Evans, a Democrat, brought the case against him for political reasons — an allegation Evans denied.
“That bothered Jimmy because it wasn’t politically motivated,” Feaga said, adding that Evans knew the case would likely mean the end of his career in public office.
Evans was defeated by Republican Jeff Sessions in the 1994 race for attorney general. Sessions went on to become U.S. senator and U.S. attorney general. Hunt later secured a pardon and made an unsuccessful bid to return to politics.