Ashley Agnew is the newest member of the Second Circuit Solicitor’s Office, and she has a passion for prosecution.
A Southern lady who speaks with an accent usually associated with the barbecue joints she adores, Agnew has never wanted to practice any other type of law than criminal prosecution.
After graduating from Clemson University with an undergraduate degree in psychology, Agnew went on to the University of Georgia’s School of Law in 2010.
The move to Athens, Ga., was the furthest the Greenville native had traveled, at that time.
Her goals in law have not shifted since her first visions of herself in a courtroom.
“Right now, I don’t foresee anything other than prosecuting,” she said. “I love it. I love my job, I love coming to work in the morning, and it never gets boring.”
Agnew has always been drawn to criminal prosecution.
“I’ll be honest. In law school, the rest of the law was pretty boring,” she joked.
As a student with a specific goal of representing the people, Agnew lauded the Prosecutorial Clinic at UGA, which gave her hands-on experience while still studying.
“I had a great professor there that was a prosecutor before he came back to teach,” she said. “He taught us how to prosecute a case from start to finish. He taught us how to be a good lawyer – as far as how to treat people – and we had the opportunity to intern in a prosecutor’s office in Georgia.”
After graduating, Agnew took her juris doctorate back to her home state and began working in the Eighth Circuit, prosecuting in Laurens and Newberry counties.
“We are very fortunate in Aiken to have the resources we have … we have investigators, we have paralegals. In Laurens, there is none of that, but I know it prepared me, because, if need be, I am able to do all of those things.”
After two years in the Eighth Circuit, Agnew came to Aiken and the Second Circuit in August 2012 to work as the prosecutor of sex abuse cases.
She gives great credit to Aiken’s Child Advocacy Center for helping her grasp the nuances of the sensitive area of victim advocacy.
“I pretty much walked in empty-handed and said, ‘Help,’ and they have been amazing,” Agnew said.
With their vast experience in the area, the Child Advocacy Center has helped the newest assistant solicitor transition from a general criminal prosecutor to specializing in sex abuse cases.
“They know more about this than, probably, I ever will,” she said. “Aiken is very fortunate to have the CAC. It is amazing to see them work with children in these circumstances.”
Even with the backup of the CAC, Agnew readily admits that her specific area of focus is not an easy one, and not one you can switch off at the end of the work day.
“It definitely follows you home. I don’t think you could be effective if it didn’t stay with you,” she said, before going on to talk of cases that don’t come out the way the prosecution hopes.
“It’s definitely something that weighs on you, especially when you get a not-guilty verdict when you feel you’ve done all you can on the case and for the victim,” she said. “But you just return the next day and look at all the other files on your desk and all the other victims you have to represent, and you move on.”
Helping the office move forward are the two senior prosecutors – Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. and his No. 2, Bill Weeks.
“I feel like I should follow both of them around with a note pad at all times,” Agnew said of her bosses. “They are both wonderful examples, and I really couldn’t be happier to work for anybody else.”
Obviously important to Agnew is the idea of a lawyer being more than just a prosecutor in the courtroom. An idea that Thurmond and Weeks portray masterfully, she said.
“It is amazing watching them,” she said. “I don’t just learn about law, I learn about being a lawyer and how to treat people, how to treat defense attorneys and people on the street. Learning that there is more to being a lawyer than knowing the law, getting up and speaking in the courtroom. They both couldn’t be better examples of that.”