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Posted: April 29, 2009 12:30 a.m.

By the book

Photo by Michelle Kim/

Counselor: Layla Zon works as the chief assistant district attorney for Newton County's Alcovy Judicial Circuit.

Layla Zon is not the kind of person who can sit still for long. Whether it's straightening out a desk, tossing an apple or twirling a pen, her hands - and her mind - are always on the go. And that's a good thing. As the chief assistant district attorney in Newton County's District Attorney's office, Alcovy Circuit, and the second in command of an office that opened about 3,800 cases last year, she needs to be able to handle many pots on the stove at once, so to speak.

Zon, who grew up running around outdoors in Dacula and Snellville, has been with the Alcovy Circuit since graduating from law school from Georgia State University in 2000.

"I'd never been to Covington, except for the interview. It was a good move. I got lucky that I found a place to prosecute that I just fell in love with," she said.

Zon, who now serves as a mentor to young ADAs beginning their career, remembers putting in long hours during her first year.

"There's certainly a lot of responsibility that's handed to you when you first begin. I remember working very late hours in the evening on every case. There's a lot to learn those first couple years especially."

One case that drove home the responsibility was the William Riley case in 2000, just a month after Zon began working. Riley was charged with killing his three young children who burned to death when he set a trailer on fire.

Though she was not prosecuting the case, she said, "I remember driving home from work that day thinking, ‘Wow, that's some really tough stuff. This is really serious.' It all of a sudden becomes very real. These are real lives and real people, on both sides. Real victims, but the defendants' lives as well - their freedom is on the line."

In high school and college, Zon was heavily involved in debate, even attending Liberty University in Lynchberg, Va., on a debate scholarship - a background that her colleagues like to tease her about.

"It's so embarrassing and cheesy to admit I went to debate camp," she said, laughing. "That's worse than band camp."

But it was her experience with a "Teen Court" program in Gwinnett County Juvenile Court that sparked her interest in prosecution. In the program, juvenile offenders charged with less serious crimes could be tried, judged and represented by other teens.

"It was a great experience because they were real cases. You got to see it from both sides," she said. "That and debate in high school and a couple of really good teachers, steered me in that direction."

When describing the mentors in her life, respect and admiration for her parents, Shirley and Terry Hinton, shines through in her voice. She also cited DA Ken Wynne, Judge Marvin Sorrells, and Tom Jones, and adjunct professor at Georgia State's Law School as particular influences and role models.

Away from the job, Zon spends time cooking and gardening at home with her husband, Marty, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. The two met initially met at the retirement party for former District Attorney Alan Cook and were acquaintances and friends for a number of years before they began dating in 2003. But it was their dog, Killian, a black Labrador Retriever, that eventually sealed the deal.

Kilian had gone missing for two agonizing weeks during deer hunting season before eventually turning up on his own. During that time they came across and took in a homeless yellow Lab that ended up being pregnant. Marty, who was not the type of person to live with dogs indoors, suddenly found himself with two dogs and seven puppies at his home.

He proposed to Layla shortly after, on Easter Day.

"I think it was one of those things -‘I'm not going to raise these dogs by myself. You're helping me,'" Layla joked.

She said she feels lucky finding such a wonderful community.

"It's just a great community. The people are just good hearted, genuine, real-hearted people," she said. "It's nice to catch a show in Atlanta and all that, but it's nice to come home and have these people be your neighbors."


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