Democratic DA candidates Q&A
By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Derek Brown and Faris Dixon are facing off in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Pitt County District Attorney. The winner will face the Republican nominee in November. Current District Attorney Kimberly Robb is seeking a seat in the state senate. Polls are open between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Below, Brown and Dixon answer questions prepared by the Daily Reflector.
Q. Many believe that a deep bias exists in the criminal justice system against African-Americans, particularly against young black men. Is this true in your experience and how can it be addressed? Otherwise, should this perception be addressed? Why or why not?
Brown: Unfortunately, in today’s society, perceptions about race bias become the reality for many. Depending on your position in the court system, you would have a different perspective of racial bias. As a prosecutor, I approach each of my cases based on the credible evidence that would be admissible at trial, not considering the race or social status of the defendant. As a defense attorney, I have to defend my client. Therefore, the perception of what may have happened, why it happened, and what factors that would weigh into what a jury or judge may consider including the evidence and including preconceived notions about race. As a trial attorney arguing to a jury, you ask them to bring with them their “common sense” and knowledge of the world but remove any biases they may have. The reality is that the majority of crimes are committed by individuals that are economically depressed, regardless of race. The unfortunate reality is that many African-American males are incarcerated by the criminal justice system.
Dixon: In my experience it is not just racial bias, but socioeconomic bias that exists. But the most glaring examples are not what you would expect. I have seen defendants who were of a high socio-economic status given extremely favorable plea offers when the victim was of a low socio-economic status or a minority. I have witnessed that most low socio-economic Caucasians and minorities would not have received the same plea offer. The current district attorney’s office could lead one to believe that they are soft on crime for affluent individuals. However, our government can only govern with the consent of the governed, and if I am elected to be the district attorney I would ensure that all people who come through the court system should have equal access to justice.
Q. What is the district attorney's role in the enforcement of illegal immigration? Should law enforcement in Pitt County do more to deport those who are here illegally but who are otherwise working and abiding by our laws?
Brown: The district attorney’s office has no role in the enforcement of illegal immigration. Immigration is a federal responsibility with the federal courts having exclusive authority. Pitt County law enforcement has no role in the deportation of illegal immigrants. However, when an individual is in the custody of the local jail, federal authorities may serve a federal detainer.
Dixon: The district attorney really has no direct role in immigration. This responsibility falls on the sheriff and other associated law enforcement. That is because when individuals are taken into custody and remanded to the local detention facility, the sheriff may or may not make an attempt to identify individual’s immigration status. The local sheriff or law enforcement would then have policies determining whether federal officials are notified. Once the federal officials are notified, it is up to them if they come and pick up the individual and take them into federal custody with regard to their citizenship. Thus, there is no facilitated interaction on the district attorney’s part.
Q. What do you think is the No. 1 crime problem in Pitt County? Why and how will you address it?
Brown: The No. 1 crime problem in Pitt County begins with respect of each ourselves and then of others. If considering property crimes, break-ins and thefts, individuals need to respect other people and their property. In the consideration of traffic, individuals need to respect the other drivers and pedestrians that utilize the roads and highways. In consideration of controlled substances, individuals need to respect themselves and understand the negative impact that the illegal use has on themselves and their families.
Dixon: The No. 1 crime problem in Pitt County are drug cases. Our community has long had issues with the drug problem, which has only been increased with the current opioid crises. That is why my platform involves increasing the size of our drug court. I will work to secure grants and funding from the local community. The drug problem is not just about drug cases. Many other crimes are committed in an effort to obtain drugs.
Q. Why should people vote for you over your opponent?
Brown: I understand the role of the district attorney’s office with respect to serving the community, working with law enforcement, and the prosecution of cases. The policies that I would implement would increase court efficiency, address victims’ concerns, and improve the prosecution of cases before the court. I have experience as a prosecutor and as defense attorney, and the opportunity to experience several different prosecutorial policies. I understand the role of the district attorney as the chief law enforcement officer of the district and have worked with the law enforcement agencies in Pitt County for over 20 years. I understand what it means to establish a district attorney’s office and have experience in office management and training attorneys and prosecutors for the court. I can be trusted to do the right thing.
Dixon: I have the unique insight of someone who has worked within two district attorney offices for a combined 14 years. I have witnessed the strengths and weaknesses of this office from the standpoint of a prosecutor and currently as a defense attorney. I know what policies should be changed and how to change them to rebuild the public trust. I have demonstrated my trial skills, as your newspaper noted for example, in the Boone trial last year. I consistently exemplified the proper temperament, integrity, honesty and community outlook necessary for this job. I have shown consistent resilience in the face of overwhelming obstacles and demonstrated the necessary decorum and dedication that would be expected of the district attorney.
Facebook: Derek Brown for District Attorney of Pitt County
Current position: Private attorney, sports agent
Professional experience: Assistant district attorney, defense attorney, business attorney, legislative counsel, law clerk, research assistant, account manager, sports agent
Political experience: Worked for Congressmen G.K. Butterfield and Frank Ballance and ran for state House in 2006.
Current position: Private attorney
Professional experience: Assistant district attorney, defense attorney, assistant public defender,
Political experience: Ran for district court judge in 2000, 2012 and 2014.
Visit this story on reflector.com for the full text of each candidate’s response to the questions.