The following are answers to rrspin.com questions for the district attorney’s race:
Kim Gourier Scott
I attended Norfolk State University for my undergraduate degree, and I attended Thomas M. Cooley School of Law for my Juris Doctorate.
I have been an assistant district attorney with the district attorney’s Office, which comprises Halifax, Hertford, Bertie and Northampton counties, for almost 14 years.
I have first-hand experience prosecuting cases and learning the inner workings of the Halifax County District Attorney’s Office.
During my time as an assistant district attorney, I have prosecuted countless cases and have successfully tried cases ranging from simple misdemeanors to first-degree murder cases to a jury.
I have handled multiple post-conviction cases that have been resolved successfully.
I have successfully completed the Career Prosecutor Course hosted by the National District Attorneys Association.
As an assistant district attorney, I have had the privilege to sit on the Best Practices Committees addressing sentencing practices, a committee designed to address racial disparities in sentencing and punishments across the state of North Carolina; I have also had the privilege to sit on the Best Practices Committee for Establishing Giglio Protocols, a committee established to make statewide suggestions for prosecutor’s offices as to how exculpatory information should be disclosed to defendants and their attorneys.
I have trained numerous assistant district attorneys to successfully try cases before a jury.
I have worked with local law enforcement agencies to create and facilitate training for officers on legal updates and suggested courtroom practices.
Prior to my current role as an assistant district attorney, I worked as a staff attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina representing victims of domestic violence.
I have spent my almost 17-year legal career as a public servant dedicated to working in, with, and for the community I serve.
Member of the North Carolina State Bar
Member of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys
I am happily married to Damien Scott who is from Northampton County.
My husband has lived and worked here in this community his entire life.
My husband and I now reside in Hertford County, and we share five beautiful children between us.
Two of our youngest children attend Hertford County Public Schools. Damien and I both thank God for blessing us with such a wonderful family.
Endorsed by Sheriff Dexter Hayes, Hertford County Sheriff’s Office
Endorsed by Sheriff Jack Smith, Northampton County Sheriff’s Office
Endorsed by the Hertford County Peace Officer’s Club
Endorsed by Northampton Citizens United Political Action Committee
Endorsed by Valerie M. Asbell, Current Elected District Attorney
Why are you seeking this office and what makes you qualified to hold it if elected?
I am running for District Attorney for the 7th prosecutorial district because I recognize that our system has flaws, but I also recognize that our system of justice is needed now more than ever. Representing the state of North Carolina is a great responsibility that should not be taken lightly, nor should the decision in selecting who should be your next district attorney.
I am seeking the office of district attorney because I am the most qualified candidate for the position, and I am prepared to use my experiences to move Halifax, Northampton, Bertie, and Hertford counties forward in a more positive direction.
I am asking for the opportunity to be put in the position of leadership to carry out my vision which will make the district attorney’s office more efficient for all citizens.
I am qualified, experienced, and prepared to take on the role of district attorney because I have the experience on day one on the job to get the job done.
The role of the district attorney is different from that of any other court official.
I have been on the inside of our system for almost 14 years, and I have had the opportunity to see what has gone right, but more importantly, what has gone wrong in our district attorney’s Office and our court system.
I am the only candidate in this race that has prosecuted in the Halifax County district attorney’s office and understands the inner workings of how things should be done.
Experience matters when electing your district attorney.
The seventh prosecutorial district covers four counties, all with different needs, and employs almost 25 staff members, when fully staffed.
My experience has allowed me to see where the most need is in our district, what is the best way to fulfill those needs for the citizens, and the best course of action to carry out that plan.
I also believe that being a person of integrity and ethical matters when electing your district attorney.
Our citizens should be able to believe what their elected officials say, and I vow to always be honest and transparent with the citizens of this district.
Do you identify as a conservative, liberal, or a moderate?
I don’t typically label myself or my views, but I imagine that I would likely fall into the category of a moderate.
Our views are often shaped by our life experiences.
As a wife and mother, I have learned that being willing to see the world from someone else’s perspective, without compromising your values or integrity, allows a more well-rounded approach to life.
More important than being a moderate, I identify myself as someone of integrity, that is ethical and of good character, that believes in always doing the right thing.
What is your first priority when elected to office?
My priority when elected as district attorney is to make sure that the staff of the district attorney’s office is fully trained and equipped to uphold our oath of office, to protect the constitution and speak on behalf of the state of North Carolina.
The district attorney’s office acts on behalf of all citizens to protect everyone’s rights, regardless of where they sit in the courtroom.
The district attorney’s office, for the first time in years, is made up of local, homegrown talent that has returned to the area to work.
The employees of the district attorney’s office are vested in their community, because this is where their families are, their homeplace, and the people they love and care about; this is an invaluable asset to the office.
With the proper training, the staff of the district attorney’s office will ensure that citizens receive access to justice in a timely manner and our courts are run more efficiently.
Training of the staff includes setting a standard of excellence for all members of the district attorney’s office to follow.
Under my leadership, you can expect and hold me accountable that: the citizens of this district will be treated fairly, without regard for their race, financial status, who their attorney is, or if they can afford an attorney when they appear before the courts; the district attorney’s office will be approachable and accessible to all citizens; cases will be reviewed based only on the facts and evidence presented to the district attorney’s office and done so within a timely manner after charges have been filed; the district attorney’s office will at all times be honest and transparent in their communications, prosecutions, and interactions with the public; law enforcement can expect to always have open lines of communication with the district attorney’s office; the staff will be trained to analyze, prepare, and try cases before the court and be prepared to proceed at all sessions of court.
What needs to be done to improve mental health services in the district? What role does the DA’s office have in this matter?
The mental health crisis in our district is rampant, and the services allocated to address these concerns are inadequate and almost non-existent as it relates to the criminal justice system. The district attorney in their official capacity does not directly have a role in the mental health services in this district.
However, the district attorney does have a duty to address any concerns relating to mental health issues that may affect a defendant’s capacity to proceed to trial.
Unfortunately, because of the lack of local resources in our district, once this is done, the court is often left seeking placement and treatment facilities to assist with the needs of this vulnerable population.
Like most things in our rural community, I believe there needs to be more resources allocated to our district, both outpatient and inpatient, to deal with this growing crisis.
As it stands, the state of North Carolina often has individuals that are ordered to be sent to an inpatient facility for their safety, and/or the safety of the community, and there is a long waiting list before this can occur.
Mental health is health, and this should be important to all our citizens.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes? Please explain why or why not.
I believe that the question of legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes should be left to the experts that deal in the area of medicine. I don’t pretend to know what does or does not work to heal the ailments of another, and so I trust those that do to make those professional decisions.
I believe that medical experts are in the best position to determine what is in the best interests of their patients, and I support whatever decision is made by the professionals in that field based on their research and studies.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes? Please explain why or why not.
As your elected district attorney, my oath is to uphold the constitution and the laws of this great state.
I am committed to following the law, and I believe that it is important that we as elected officials do not allow our personal opinions and beliefs to dictate, or pick and choose, the laws that we uphold.
I respect the citizens of this great state, and the legislature, and I will follow the law accordingly.
Should Halifax County revert to a single judicial and prosecutorial district? Is this something that is possible?
Halifax County is geographically one of the largest counties in the state of North Carolina. Population wise, Halifax County is almost the same size as Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties combined.
I believe that there are inadequate resources allocated throughout the district.
When the merger occurred, not only were the districts combined, but there was a reduction in workforce as well; this means that they made the district attorney’s office bigger, with fewer staff to cover the workload.
Our citizens were punished by the merger because by reducing the court personnel in the district, it reduced citizens’ access to justice.
I am absolutely in support of resources being allocated to the district to facilitate citizen’s rights to access justice being restored, in whatever form that looks like, that benefits the citizens of these great counties.
How would you go about easing the backlog of cases currently in our court system?
I believe that victims and defendants deserve justice, and justice delayed is justice denied.
I do realize that we are in unprecedented times, and we must have an aggressive approach to resolving the cases in our district.
It is the responsibility of the district attorney’s office to calendar matters before the superior court, and I believe that the district attorney’s office should always be present, prepared, and ready to proceed at all sessions of court.
There is a significant amount of work that goes into preparing a file for court.
Victim cases particularly require extra measures due to victims’ rights legislation.
If elected, I would establish policies and protocols to aggressively approach the backlog of cases pending in our district.
My vision includes:
Ensuring the staff is fully trained on how to assess, prepare, and try cases before the court
Assigning attorneys to the heaviest caseloads, Halifax County Superior Court for example, to ensure that victims and cases are being given the time they need for proper representation in court
Prioritizing jail cases and older cases and calendar them for resolution
Establishing a protocol where assistant district attorneys are prepared to proceed and object to any continuances, barring any unforeseen circumstances in a case, once the State has complied with its statutory requirements required by law. The Administrative Office of the Courts hired an independent agency to assess the statewide backlog of cases across North Carolina; the agency found that the single factor contributing to the backlog of cases more than any other was the number of times a case had been continued. In my experience with the district attorney’s office, the overwhelming majority of cases that are continued, are continued based on the defendant and/or their attorney’s request to continue the case. While a judge is the only person that can continue a case, the state would be prepared to object thereby reducing the amount of time a case is pending before resolution.
Coordinating with other districts that share the limited number of defense attorneys working in this district to ensure that once a trial session is scheduled the state can proceed
Implement a tracking system that records how many times a case has been continued, if the case is ready for trial, if there are outstanding pretrial issues in a case, and conduct regular status hearings for all jail cases.
Success of any court system requires that all parties be willing to come to the table and work, because our court system works when our court system works.
The district attorney’s office, judges, and defense attorneys are all cogs in the wheel, and every cog on the wheel must be willing to work together to move this district forward in a more positive and efficient manner.
I am committed to adopting a cooperative approach to addressing the cases that are currently pending that establishes a system of accountability for the district attorney’s office.
How could the dismissals which occurred in Glenview quadruple homicides be prevented? What should have been differently?
The Glenview murder case is currently pending in the district attorney’s office where I am employed, and the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct govern extrajudicial (public) comments by a prosecutor regarding pending cases.
While I was not assigned to prosecute the Glenview murder case, I have prosecuted several murder cases throughout my almost 14 years as a prosecutor.
I believe that in most murder cases, families of the victim want answers.
Unfortunately, the state of North Carolina is rarely able to answer the very difficult question(s) that families often have, and that is “why” the crime occurred.
I have learned that honest and transparent prosecution is the only way to prosecute and proceed with a case.
In my experience, families don’t always want to hear difficult information or bad news, but they appreciate the truth being communicated to them early on.
Disappointing information rarely becomes easier to digest with time.
I believe that it should be a regular practice in murder cases to sit down with the family of the victim(s) and review the evidence in the possession of the state, once the entire file has been received from law enforcement, so the family knows what is going on and can follow along with the prosecution of the case.
Victims and their families should feel like part of the prosecution team, and I believe the best way to do that is to communicate with them regarding the status of the case.
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?
As an assistant district attorney, my job is to fight for everyone’s rights, but I am the voice for the state of North Carolina and victims of crime.
The purpose of bond should never be punitive because someone doesn’t have the financial means to satisfy their court obligations.
Bond should always be considered in two prongs:
Is this defendant a danger to the victim and/or community
What is the likelihood that this defendant will return to court for their court appearance.
The court can take several factors into consideration when setting or modifying a bond, but the biggest considerations typically offered by the state are the facts in the case, the victim’s feelings and concerns (if any), and a defendant’s prior record.
I believe strongly and am in support of protecting our citizens and our community, and I believe that the peace of our community should never be compromised.
I am a strong advocate for victims’ rights and have spent the last almost 17 years of my legal career fighting for victims, and if elected, I will continue to do so with honor.
How would you address the seemingly rising tide of youthful offenders committing violent crimes? What needs to be done to prevent this?
I am concerned that over the past couple of years there has been a steady increase in the number of violent and weapons-related offenses amongst younger and juvenile-aged offenders. Our court system is seeing younger offenders, and juvenile offenders, involved in more serious violent offenses that are directly related to gangs, weapons, and drug-related activities in our community.
More must be done to work within our community to reach the youth before they enter the court system.
If elected, I am committed to working with the schools and in the schools with the staff of the district attorney’s office to be accessible to students, parents, school personnel, faith-based leaders, and other community partners.
We must work together to show our youth that there are options other than gangs, weapons, and drugs, and they have a future that is waiting for them to claim.
If we don’t fight to show our youth there are other options, then we have given up on them before they ever had a chance.
Who has been your biggest influence in your career?
My parents have been the biggest influence on my career.
My parents were both educators who spent their professional lives giving back to others around them.
Very early on I was taught that life is about people, not things.
Building relationships and helping people whenever possible was something I witnessed often as a child, so it was a natural carryover into adulthood for me.
I have spent almost the last 17 years as an attorney dedicated to helping people, fighting for victims, and always doing what I believe is the right thing.
My desire to serve and give back to my community was instilled in me by my parents, it wasn't accidentally stumbled upon.
My career of service has been a reflection of that which was demonstrated for me.
Please provide a brief summation of what the DA’s office would be like under your leadership
The world is changing, the administration is changing, and there are some things about our district attorney’s office that must change as well.
Under my leadership, the staff of the district attorney’s office will be adequately trained to prosecute the cases on behalf of the state of North Carolina, and the staff will be present and ready to proceed at all sessions of court.
The community can expect to be treated with respect and dignity and have access to their public officials.
The community can expect to have an experienced and ethical prosecutor leading the office, a person that they can trust to provide them with facts that are not manipulated to fit a narrative or conclusion for their personal or professional gain.
The community can expect to be treated fairly, regardless of any factors other than the facts and evidence in a case.
The community can expect honest and transparent prosecutions that allow victims and defendants to know what the status of their case is.
Victims should expect a qualified voice to advocate on their behalf.
Defendants should expect honest prosecutors that will uphold the law and ensure their rights are not violated.
Under my leadership, I believe accountability should apply to everyone in our court system, the court personnel, and convicted defendants.
I am prepared to be held accountable for my vision, and I will ask that violent and repeat offenders be held accountable in our courtrooms.
I am committed to prioritizing the prosecution of violent offenders, repeat offenders and jailed defendants.
I also believe that people are not disposable, and that every crime that comes before the court system should not result in a prison sentence.
If elected, the citizens can expect someone who will not compromise their integrity, oath of office, or commitment to the citizens of this district; and they should expect that an experienced, ethical and efficient leader will require the same standard of excellence for the entire staff of the district attorney’s office.