Dixon wants to bring back transparency to DA's office
By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector
Monday, April 16, 2018
Faris Dixon said wants to change how the Pitt County District Attorney's Office is run and he wants to bring back transparency and balance when it comes to trying cases.
The former prosecutor is now a defense attorney after he was effectively fired in 2014 by current District Attorney Kimberly Robb, who is not seeking re-election. He is one of two Democrats seeking Robb’s seat in the May 8 primary. The winner will face the winner of the Republican primary in November.
Dixon said his experience and integrity makes him the right choice to be Pitt County's next district attorney. “For the public, they've had an opportunity to see me for the last four years. I've handled myself well. I have the right temperament, the right training, the right skills. I'm focused on public service.”
Dixon has been practicing law for more than 25 years. He began his career as a defense attorney for Lumbee River Legal Services in Robeson County and went on to work as an assistant district attorney in Robeson County and later Pitt County. He has also worked as an attorney for the Pitt County Public Defender's Office and currently works as a defense attorney in private practice.
He is a 1989 graduate of Duke University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He graduated from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Law in 1992. (Click here for his website.)
During a recent interview with The Daily Reflector, Dixon discussed the role of district attorney and addressed his priorities if elected to the office.
District attorney’s role
“A DA is supposed to be an administrator of justice. A lot of people think you're supposed to prosecute everybody, and find everybody guilty. It actually does not work like that, it's not supposed to work like that. In one instance, you're supposed to screen cases before they go to court. You're supposed to have some sense of balance and try to reduce recidivism.”
“People talk about wasting time. Preparing for a trial takes a great amount of time. Often times, a DA will set up a trial calendar of things they intend to do and it falls apart. Defendants often will decide they don’t want to have a trial and will plead guilty to whatever the original offer was. You can't make everyone plead and you can't make everyone go to trial.”
“Corruption is a concern. I see things that don’t quite look right, and this county is unusual in the things that people complain about the DAs office so much. From my own experience, things don’t look right. The reputation of the DAs office here is highly unusual.”
Dixon said that the current office lacks transparency. He also referenced Robb's refusal to release videos from the St. Patrick's Day Assault at ECU that took place in 2016.
“We just had the anniversary of the St. Patricks day assault. The story from the DAs office was, 'Hey, you can't have access to these videos' and then you hear later on, 'We can give them to you; we'll determine when that happens and we'll make up our mind when that happens.' You cannot do that to the public. You need to be firm in your decision. Either you give the public access to it or you don’t.”
He continued, “There is no transparency. I don’t think it matters whether you're Democrat or Republican, Libertarian, black, white, Latino, you need to be concerned about what is going on is this office.”
Pitt County is supposed to be the leader of the east, Dixon said, and part of that leadership is having a conviction integrity unit. Such units work to prevent, identify and correct false convictions. Nationwide, there are about 30 such units out of 2,000 District Attorney's Offices.
“Because of the way I’ve seen cases handled in the last year, they concern me. I want to make sure that the public knows, when we are trying cases, we are trying cases. We're not doing it out of spite or to make a name for ourselves or to look big in the paper. These are cases that are valid issues.
“When the guys at the jail know that a certain DA wears a certain coat, that's a problem. I don’t have a problem with trying cases, or sending people to jail. I just want to make sure that we are sending the correct people to jail and that everybody's treated equally and fairly.”
Drug and mental health courts
“We have a drug court that does a great job but it's not big enough to handle all that is required. I've had a lot of clients that need to be there. I would work with nonprofits and seek grants to increase the size of the drug court. People don’t understand that a drug addiction is an illness and that those people need treatment.”
“I also want to bring back our mental health court. The legislature tore down the mental health court 10-15 years ago and never put anything in place to pick it up. A lot of people we have in custody now would have been in a hospital or working with a case manager for treatment.”
Juvenile court expansion
“We need to work with Pitt Community College and East Carolina University, along with local nonprofits, for training for at-risk youth. These kids need the training on how to get a job, do an interview, and that all needs to be networked together. Most of these high school students just didn’t fit the system and they just dropped out and it resulted in them eventually getting into the criminal justice system. When people are not busy, when they're not focused and they're not working, other things will get their attention. Often times it is crime or drugs,” Dixon said.
Contact Tyler Stocks at email@example.com and 329-9566.