The following are answers to rrspin.com questions for the district attorney’s race:
Graduate of NC State University, Mechanical Engineering, 1994
Graduate of NC Central University, School of Law, Juris Doctor, 1997
Former Assistant District Attorney for Halifax, Northampton, Hertford and Bertie
counties. Twenty-four plus years of criminal practice in Halifax, Northampton, Hertford and
Over 80 murder cases resolved and extensive office management experience. Also served as legal counsel for Hertford County Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services division.
Member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. since November 1989.
Why are you seeking this office and what makes you qualified to hold it when elected?
I am seeking the district attorney position because I have 24 years of criminal law experience and I have seen this current administration fail to live up to the standards they swore to uphold. My opponent has been an assistant district attorney under the current administration for the past 14 years.
The current administration is not trying cases in a timely manner.
Defendants are sitting in all the local jails awaiting trial for 5-6 years.
Victims are not receiving justice. Their families are not receiving closure.
I’m a resident in this community and I am deeply disturbed by what I see as the rise in crime we are experiencing locally.
Shootings, robberies, murders are all on the rise. Crime in this district is simply not being punished.
In 2016-2017, this prosecutorial district had a 64 percent dismissal rate, one of the highest in the state.
That means that only 36 percent of cases were being prosecuted. That was and is still a failing grade.
That was before COVID-19. I can only imagine how bad the numbers are post-COVID-19.
I’ve practiced criminal law for over 24 years and I’ve resolved over 80 murder cases.
I’ve tried over 20 murder cases to trial by jury. My opponent has tried only two murder cases. I’m seeking this office because criminal cases are simply not being tried in a timely manner. Defendants are sitting in jail 5-6 years awaiting trial. This is problematic because victims are not getting justice and their families are not receiving closure like they deserve.
Not to mention the $29,965 per year tax bill footed by the citizens for each county to feed and house these inmates until their cases are resolved.
Do you identify as a conservative, liberal or moderate?
I identify as a moderate.
I believe that defendants should be held accountable for the crimes they commit. That is simply not happening under the current administration, of which my opponent is a part.
I plan to hold offenders accountable for the crimes they commit in a timely manner.
I’m not going to deviate from the basic tenets of our criminal justice system in that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
However, offenders will be given their day in court in a timely manner which is important because victims need justice and their families deserve closure.
We have to start to use a common-sense approach to how we utilize our criminal justice system. Our system only works if everyone comes to work prepared and ready to do their job.
I’m a firm believer in law and order. If you commit the crime, you have to be held accountable. Right now our criminal justice system is not respected by the community nor the offenders. People need to know and believe that our system will work for them.
That only comes with putting in the work to re-instill faith in our system.
Offenders need to think in the back of their mind, “If I commit this crime, there’s a strong likelihood that I will go to prison …”
What is your first priority when elected to office?
I have several priorities.
My first priority when elected to office is to address the enormous backlog of serious felony and murder cases that exists in each of the four counties.
My plan is simple — roll up our sleeves and get to work.
My plan is to bring in experienced staff and prosecutors to help me work.
My staff will have to be willing to work weekends. If I’m working on the weekends, they have to be willing to work the weekends.
I want to meet with the families of the murder victims and law enforcement and go over the entire felony file so that the families will know what we know.
And by the same token, what we don’t know.
A lot of times, family members will know things that law enforcement may not know. If that’s the case, we can chase down those new leads.
We will work weekends, we will go to crime scenes, meet with the witnesses, and prepare these cases for trial.
The cases will be tried in the order from oldest to newest.
We will place these serious felonies and murder cases on special sessions of superior court so as not to interfere with regularly scheduled sessions of court.
My plan is to put 5-6 serious felony and murder cases on each trial calendar and have all the witnesses in court, and ready to proceed.
If the first case folds, then you roll into the second case and so on.
It’s going to require hard work and effort, but it can be done.
Currently, our district attorney’s office ranks at the bottom when it comes to the disposition/prosecution of cases.
Things have got to change.
Defendants have no respect for our criminal justice system as things currently stand.
The community has no faith in our system. We have to restore faith in our criminal justice system by holding criminals accountable for the crime they commit.
What needs to be done to improve mental health services in the district? What role does the DA’s office have in this matter?
Mental health requires a case by case approach.
If either the defense attorney or the prosecutor believes there may be mental deficits with the defendant, either party can make a motion to have the defendant evaluated.
To improve the mental health services in the district, we obviously need more resources to address our mental health needs.
The district attorney is a voice for ALL the people. Victims and defendants.
If I suspect a defendant has mental deficits, I have a duty to report that to the court, and will have the defendant evaluated for competency to stand trial.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes? Please explain why or why not.
Marijuana is legal in most states.
North Carolina is always the last to follow suit.
However, I have no opinion for or against the legalization of marijuana.
I will continue to follow the law and apply the law as written.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes? Please explain why or why not.
Marijuana is legal in most states. North Carolina is always the last to follow suit.
However, I have no opinion for or against the legalization of marijuana.
I will continue to follow the law however it applies.
Should Halifax County revert to a single judicial and prosecutorial district? Is this something that is possible?
Halifax County has enough crime and problems that it should definitely be its own district.
I hope and pray that the leadership in Raleigh will reassess and look at the situation that has happened in this district and return it back to the way it used to be.
Halifax County was a stand-alone district. Bertie, Northampton, Hertford counties were their own districts.
It’s only possible if the leadership in Raleigh revert things back to the way they were. Anything is possible.
I’ve heard that some serious discussions are currently underway in Raleigh to possibly break the district up.
How would you go about easing the backlog of cases currently in our court system?
Cases are simply not being tried in a judicious manner under the current administration. Defense attorneys know it. Defendants know it.
We have to send a message that if you commit crime, you will not only be punished, but you will be punished in a timely manner.
If someone allegedly committed a crime, and they gave a confession, why are they sitting in jail for 5-6 years awaiting trial? Makes no sense.
We literally have defendants who have given confessions awaiting trial for 5-6 years. Why? Make them a reasonable plea offer based upon the evidence in the case. If they reject the plea, then try their case.
There must be accountability.
But with accountability, you must be prepared and willing to try the cases if a defendant doesn’t accept the plea that’s been offered.
Working on the weekends. Meeting with the witnesses, law enforcement, and the families of murder victims. Getting the cases ready for trial. And trying the cases. That’s how you ease the backlog.
Once defendants know we’re serious about trying their cases, they will start pleading guilty to their crimes.
As a defense attorney, I know what to look for in cases to help secure convictions. I know what law enforcement is lacking in their investigations and what needs to be done to secure convictions.
Being a defense attorney is not necessarily a bad thing.
I have plans of bringing in ex-prosecutors and retired law enforcement officers to give in-person training to prosecutors and officers together so that we can get better investigations and prosecution of cases in the future.
I have a plan to reduce the backlog of cases.
Hard work and investing the time and energy to get the work done.
My opponent has not articulated a plan as of yet how she plans to address the backlog.
She has been in the district attorney’s office for 14 years and has only tried 2 murder cases.
My opponent has done nothing, nor taken any effort to ease the backlog of cases since she has been in the district attorney’s office.
If the past is any indication of the future, nothing will change under her administration if she is elected.
How could the dismissals which occurred in the Glenview quadruple homicides be prevented? What should have been differently?
Out of respect for the families involved in the quadruple homicide case, I’m not going to offer a comment on that situation.
I have met with the aggrieved families and my heart truly goes out to them in this situation.
But again, the case is still pending in court and out of pure admiration and respect for the families, it’s not appropriate to comment on the current pending case(s).
Many in the general public have a misunderstanding of the way bonds work, not realizing that they are not a form of punishment but a means to assure a defendant’s appearance in court. Do you support an overhaul of the bond system? Do you believe they are adequate?
NCGS 15A-534 is the statute that addresses bonds.
- Nature and circumstances
- Defendant’s prior record,
- The facts and circumstances of the case
- Threat to the public.
Those are the factors to be considered by the court.
I don’t support an overhaul of the bond system. But what I do support is putting all the information in front of the judge so that a reasonable bond can be made.
For example, if the offender has a substantial criminal history, I would read the defendant’s entire prior criminal history into the record.
Based upon the allegations and the prior criminal history, I would ask the court for a substantial pretrial release bond in accordance with their record.
Currently, bonds are too low.
Defendants are back out on the street before the ink is dry on the release order.
I get it. I’m a defense attorney and I’ve filed bond motions to reduce bonds.
But in all sincerity, a lot of these defendants that are recidivists, that keep coming down to the courthouse over and over and over again, have to be taken off the streets and put away so they can’t reoffend.
As a defense attorney, I see the problems firsthand.
I’m ready to fix them.
But as the district attorney, I will stand up and ask for a cash bond for some of these repeat offenders who continue to commit crime.
Right now, it’s too easy to commit crime and get out on bond. That has to change. Everyone has to be scared of something.
How would you address the seemingly rising tide of youthful offenders committing violent crimes? What needs to be done to prevent this?
We have to take into account the nature and seriousness of the juvenile’s crime, the victim’s desires, what community-based services are available to the juvenile, and their prior involvement in the juvenile justice system.
Everyone’s situation is different and should be adjudicated on a case by case basis.
We need more community-based resources to stem the rise in violent crimes.
But I can assure you of this, if it is a violent crime and it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, accountability and prosecution are mandatory.
But these cases must be dealt with in a timely manner.
Who has been your biggest influence in your career?
My biggest influences on my career have been my parents and my former boss, David Beard. Growing up, I watched my parents struggle.
My father emphasized the importance of hard work and doing things the right way.
My father actually went to law school, but never passed the bar. He died of prostate cancer back in 2001. My mother is a retired nurse who personified hard work. My parents taught me to never take “no” for an answer and always strive to be your best.
David Beard taught me how to be a fierce prosecutor and how to give your all to the job.
I remember he would have us in his office at 9 a.m. on Saturday doing role-play scenarios on how to pick jurors, question witnesses, etc. He taught me how to work hard to get the results you desired.
He is still one of my mentors to this day.
Please provide a brief summation of what the DA’s office would be like under your leadership
Under my leadership, my staff will be professional and will dress appropriately.
We will come to work and we will work hard. That includes me.
Expectations will be laid out from the very beginning.
We are going to come to work and we’re going to be professional. We’re going to work weekends. We’re going to meet with witnesses and go to crime scenes and prepare these cases for trial.
We will work hard to make this district attorney’s office one of the best in the state. Accountability and accessibility.
Hold me accountable. I will be accessible and accountable. I will have an open door policy. My plan is to incorporate social media within my administration.
I have an idea to host “Discussions with the DA.”
We can communicate via Facebook live about current trends in the court system or any concerns or problems the citizens want to discuss.
If fortunate to be elected as your next district attorney, I pledge that everyone that comes through the criminal justice system will be treated equally and fairly under the law.