In announcing his future plans as district attorney of the 18th Judicial District, Ricky Ward made the following statement.
“Friends, I wish I could put into words how grateful and honored it has been to serve as your district attorney for the past 29--and now going on 30--years.”
“I truly wish everyone in this country could experience for just one day the feeling of privilege and honor that I have been so fortunate to do every day of my life for the past almost 30 years,” Ward continued in a prepared statement.
“It is truly a humbling experience to wake up every day of the week and to immediately know that you represent everyone—every man, every woman and every child—within the three parishes that you represent and serve,” he said.
As a person of strong faith in God, Ward said he is “always honest and fair in reviewing all criminal cases” that come through his office.
“I believe that honesty and fair mindedness are the two most important characteristics a district attorney must have,” Ward said.
He went on to say, “I have loved being your district attorney but I believe it is time for me to close this chapter of my life. This decision has not come easy and it came only after much prayer and many hours of discussion with my wife, family members, staff members—who are the best in the world—and close friends.”
“So, to all of you, my friends, I have decided not to run for reelection as district attorney,” Ward announced.
The election for the district attorney’s seat for the 18th Judicial District will be in November and the new district attorney will take office in January 2021, so Ward will remain in office until then.
“For me, one of the great things about being DA is the privilege of having over 50 employees, many of whom have been with me since my first day in office,” he said. “As happens so often, because I have so many capable employees, I also often have the opportunity to make decisions concerning them that have a great and positive impact on them and my office, one of which happened at the beginning of this year.”
“It is with much honor and pleasure that I appoint Tony Clayton to the position of first assistant district attorney,” Ward said. “Tony has proven time and time again that he is one of the best prosecutors in the state of Louisiana and has been one of my most loyal and trusted employees for nearly 20 years, most of them as my chief felony prosecutor.”
According to Ward, Clayton has tried almost every major felony case in which someone was murdered or raped and has done so with an almost perfect record of convictions.
“He, no doubt, has more experience prosecuting murder, rape and other crimes of violence than any other person in Louisiana,” Ward said. “Among the hundreds of cases Tony has successfully tried and convicted are two that everyone will remember—serial killers Derrick Todd Lee and Sean Gillis.”
“Both serial killers terrorized south Louisiana for years and were first prosecuted by Tony Clayton as my lead prosecutor for murder,” he continued. “Both serial killers were convicted as charged by Clayton and received life imprisonment sentences.”
During his lengthy career as a prosecutor, Clayton was the first of only two persons ever in Louisiana to receive the coveted Home Run Hitters Award from the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), Ward said.
The NDAA annually inducts a select few prosecutors into the Home Run Hitters Club to recognize their outstanding work in trying complicated and high profile cases, according to the district attorney.
“The Home Run Hitters Award is the highest national award given in recognition of exceptional prosecution to honor those prosecutors who step up to the plate and score a ‘home run hit’ for their office,” Ward said.
Clayton received this award for the successful prosecution of a case in which the defendant killed six minor children using his vehicle as a weapon, according to Ward.
“Clayton successfully prosecuted the case and secured five death penalty verdicts against the defendant,” he said. “In addition to being recognized by their peers as the best in the nations, winners receive a genuine Louisville Slugger baseball bat inscribed with their names.”
Ward said Clayton was additionally named Prosecutor of the Year in 2015 by Crimefighters of Louisiana, a victims advocacy organization created to protect and advocate on behalf of the victims of crime, for his successful prosecution of Karl Howard and Monique Kitts for the murder for hire death of Corey Kitts Jr. in West Baton Rouge.
“I can’t thinK of anyone who is more qualified by experience and training in prosecuting serious criminal cases in the 18th Judicial District and to bring us into the next decade than Tony Clayton,” Ward said.