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Brown wants to be 'the people's DA'

Derek Brown

Derek Brown


By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Monday, April 16, 2018

Derek Brown said his extensive legal experience and ease with the public will allow him to be a district attorney for the people.

The former prosecutor who is now a defense attorney in Greenville has been a lawyer for 22 years, having worked as an assistant district attorney in Bertie, Hertford and Northhampton counties as part of the 6th Prosecutorial District of North Carolina.

He also has worked as legal counsel for congressmen Frank Balance and G.K. Butterfield as well as a defense attorney and legal counsel for multiple firms and businesses. He currently owns the firm Brown Gibson, P.C.

“You can meet me on the street or meet me at the courthouse and have a conversation with me,” Brown said. “The only thing that's going to dictate how much of a conversation we have is what other things I have set in place. But, if I have no other things on my schedule, feel free to have a conversation with me.”

Brown attended N.C. Agricultural and Technical University and was accepted into law school early through a special program at Campbell University’s Norma Wiggins School of Law. He graduated in 1996.

He is one of two Democrats seeking the district attorney post in the May 8 primary. The winner will face the winner of the Republican primary in November. Incumbent Kimberly Robb is not seeking re-election. (Click here for Brown’s Facebook page.)

During a recent interview with The Daily Reflector, Brown discussed the role of district attorney and addressed his priorities if elected to the office.

District attorney’s role

“You're the chief law enforcement officer for the prosecuterial district. Your job is to organize and work with the other law enforcement agencies. They investigate and present the crimes to the district attorney's office for prosecution. The DA has an established relationship with those agencies. You have to be involved in the community to make sure you serve the dual role of prosecution and victim support,” Brown said.

Victims’ rights

“I want to move victims' rights to the forefront. Victims should be notified within a short time of the crime happening to establish that relationship,” Brown said. “When a crime happens, the first person people have a relationship with is law enforcement. Once law enforcement does investigation, the district attorney's office needs to be in a position to pick up from there. I want to make sure my victims are knowledgable, know what's going on with their cases and how their cases are being handled. I cannot due but so much without a victims' input.”

Community policing

“As everyone starts talking about community policing, the district attorney needs to be present with that as well. We need to be educating people because we're all held to the standard where we are deemed to know the law,” Brown said. “I want to be the people's DA and make myself available to talk. I want us to serve the community by not only being a part of it, talking and communicating but getting the information to society so my community can make wise decisions. Law enforcement has a two-part service. One is to protect but the big one is to serve. My job is to serve as well. Serve our community to get the issues and questions they have answered.”

Courtroom efficiency

“There's a backlog in regard to some of the cases pending in Superior Court. That means sitting down with our Superior Court judges, clerks office, sitting down with our sheriff's office. You can't just go in and run court by yourself,” Brown said. You have to have everybody at the table saying, 'OK, here's what we normally do and here's how we normally do it.

“There's no reason for possession of a firearm cases to take six months to prosecute. The longer that case sits, it doesn't get any better. I'm not in the DA’s office so I'm an outsider looking in. I see what's currently in place, what's working and what's not working,” he said.

Corruption concerns

“A lot of concern is out there about bias and how people are being policed. Whether that's true or not, perception becomes reality. Evidence, witnesses, victims change cases. My personal observation has been fairness, but as I see things come up, it makes me ask the question,” Brown said. “A prosecutor’s job is to always do the right thing. It may not be easy, it may not be what everyone likes the most, but doing the right thing means you take care of all parties therein.”

Drug and mental health courts

“If you're in the court system or in the criminal court on a regular basis, you see that the majority of your crimes are either drug related or from a dependency aspect. They didn’t break in your house to steal your TV, they broke into your house to get something to sell to buy some drugs. The petty theft at Walmart or the Dollar General wasn't for the sake of getting something. It was for having something to sell to get the drugs,” he said.

“You have people who are sitting in jail or in the hospital because of the criminal justice system. They're going to sit until they get in a court. Why am I holding you in the jail because holding you in the jail wont fix the problem? We've got to sit down, if the Legislature has not made it a priority, we've got to find funding and the availability of the courts within the court system.

“Before what I can say what I'm going to do, I've got to talk to my judges. You're caught between a rock and a hard place because we have to find out what resources are available to us and what partners are available to make that happen,” Brown said.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com and 252-329-9566.