Tuesday, 10 April 2018 13:50

DA candidate profile: Norlan Graves

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Norlan Graves is challenging incumbent Valerie Asbell for the position of district attorney in Bertie, Halifax, Northampton and Hertford counties.

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rrspin.com submitted the following questions for the two candidates:

 

Residence

Roanoke Rapids, NC

 

Current occupation

Assistant District Attorney (District 7)

 

Years of experience

9

 

Education

University of North Carolina at Pembroke (B.A. Political Science)

North Carolina Central School of Law (J.D.)

 

Civic, church or other community organizations of which you are involved:

First Baptist Church of Weldon, NC

Board of Governors, Upper Coastal Plains Council of Governments

Roanoke Rapids Rotary Club, President Elect

Roanoke Valley Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Jackson Square Masonic Lodge #700

Roanoke-Chowan Scottish Rite Consistory #276

 

Why are you running; why do you believe you are qualified to run; what difference can you make; what difference have you made in your current position?

I am running because I have listened. I’ve listened to the concerns of law enforcement, victims, attorneys and court officials about the need for change.

I am a principled person and I will advocate for justice at all costs.

Violent career criminals are taking over our communities and people languish in county jails for years awaiting trial.

I will be responsive and address these issues.

I will be visible, available  and accessible to community I serve. I have no friends to reward nor any enemies to punish. I simply have the vision and experience necessary to move our area forward in a new and better direction.  

 

Tell us how many years of trial experience you have. Why is that experience important? What was the most difficult case you have successfully prosecuted?

I have nine years of trial experience. I have prosecuted crimes ranging from speeding tickets to murder in multiple counties.

I began as a defense attorney and then became an Assistant District Attorney in District 6A and remained there until the merger. After the merger, I transitioned to District 7 after working for nearly a year in the newly formed District 6.

Trial experience is important in that prosecutors have to be willing to actually get in the courtroom and try cases in order to move the docket. During my years, I have not just been on the job, I have actually done the job.

The most difficult case I have successfully prosecuted was my first jury trial.

The case was a breaking and entering case and I had about a year and a half of experience at the time. I was being supervised by the Senior Assistant District Attorney at the time who is now District Court Judge Moody.

I prepared for that trial as if it were the trial of the century and prosecuted it successfully. Afterwards, The Senior Assistant District Attorney told me that as long as I approach all of my future trials with that same level of preparation and fierceness that I will excel.

 

How has the merger of Halifax, Northampton, Hertford and Bertie affected or will affect your job? Do you believe there will be a further merger and how will that affect your job?

I along with the majority of other court officials was opposed to the merger.

If there is any future merger, we simply have to adapt to the circumstances we are faced and operate more efficiently.

There are other multi-county districts in the state with caseloads that are larger than District 6 and they still get the job done.

I have broad experiences that will aid in the process of getting the job done.

Prior to the merger, I was appointed to the District 6 merger committee by Chief District Court Judge Brenda Branch.

As the Halifax Bar President and member of the merger committee, I aided in the process of transitioning into the new district.

In 2011, I was appointed by the North Carolina Speaker of the House to the board of governors for the North Carolina Criminal Justice Information Network, becoming the youngest appointee in the history of the board.

While on that board, I collaborated with various entities across the entire state to improve communications and information sharing within our criminal justice system.

As your next District Attorney I will implement a plan to integrate technology into the District Attorney’s office and will collaborate with all stakeholders to move cases more efficiently.

There have been discussions in the General Assembly to add additional counties to the district.

I also oppose adding more counties to the district, however, if they are added, I will implement a comprehensive plan to administer justice within the district.

I will advocate to our legislative representatives for legislation allowing electronic signatures on essential court documents and seek to obtain funding for the installation of video technology in our courtrooms to allow virtual meetings and court appearances.

We have to adapt in order to ensure the administration of justice.


Does a DA have any input into the state mental health crisis? If so how does it affect your job and what would be your solution to the problem?

Before attending law school, I was a program manager for a mental health program based in Orange County.

My work in the mental health field was during the time period at which the state began to take away funding for mental health.

This resulted in many individuals with mental illness being left without the necessary services they needed.

District Attorneys do indeed have input in the mental health crisis.

We have the ability to advocate to our legislators for funding for essential programs and services.

We also have the ability to collaborate with stakeholders in our community including law enforcement, judges and counselors to create alternative options such as mental health courts. There are successful programs of that nature currently operating in our state, and I am open to exploring those options.

The District Attorney’s job does not begin when a case reaches the courtroom.

 

With defendants in the Glenview and Deer Run murders being assigned capital defenders, is it your intent to proceed capitally in these cases?

The North Carolina Rules of Professional Responsibility as well as my oath/obligation as a prosecutor forbid me from making some public comments as to pending cases.

I am legally bound to review the case and make my determination based on the law and the facts presented.

I will proceed in a manner consistent with the evidence presented by law enforcement, the general statutes and my Constitutional obligations.

 

Do you believe in alternate solutions beyond arrest to address the opioid and other drug problems we see? What solutions would you offer?

Treatment options that provide for rehabilitation instead of incarceration have sometimes proven to be successful.

At one point, there was a drug treatment court in Halifax County that was managed by Judge Stephenson.

This court was highly successful and provided treatment options for those with substance abuse issues.

However, funding for this program was eliminated by the State and the program was disbanded.

I would support the reestablishment of similar programs in our area.

I also will make it my policy to allow deferred prosecutions for first time drug offenders who are not in the business of selling drugs and who demonstrate a willingness to obtain the treatment they need.

I do think that these alternative solutions should be implemented with regards to drugs generally, not just one class of drugs (opioids).

For quite some time, our society has treated certain classes of drug users differently than others, I believe that substance abuse is an issue that touches the lives of many and the District Attorney should seek to save the lives of many wherever possible.

Gangs remain an issue in the Roanoke Valley, the state and country. What is the role of  the DA in combatting this problem? How is the gang problem affecting our community?

It is the role of the District Attorney to recognize problem areas and react accordingly. Prosecuting violent offenders would be my priority. I’d work with area law enforcement to create a violent offender task force and have a dedicated Assistant District Attorney to give those cases the attention they need.

In the 7th District, I currently prosecute a caseload that includes violent offenders who have been identified by law enforcement as nuisances in the community.

This type of coordination and focus is necessary to combat this issue.

I will work along with the Sheriff’s office, Probation/Parole and other local law enforcement agencies to identify gang members and prioritize these cases.

The gang problem affects our community in a multitude of ways.

Public safety is obviously compromised as a result.

People have lost the sense of security and safety that they once had in their homes.

We should not have to live in fear of home invasions or stray bullets from drive-by shootings. Also, gang activity affects economic development.

Businesses simply are not willing to locate in an area that has rampant gang violence.

As your next District Attorney, I will address this issue.

 

How do we make our communities safer?

We make our communities safer by collaborating.

I believe in collaborating with law enforcement, the non-profit sector, the faith based community as well as any other concerned citizen who would like to be heard.

Maintaining an open door policy that is inclusive of all is essential to building a safer community. In the words of the late Frank Avent, working together works.

In addition to collaborating, I will be visible in the community and do the work necessary to build safer and better communities.

We need to rebuild relationships with the public.

Relationships and trust with the community start with being available and accessible to the community, and I will ensure that this happens.

 

What are some other issues you believe need to be addressed in the district as a whole how would you go about addressing them?

Improving communication across the board is an issue that I will address.

Victims of crime as well as law enforcement need access to their District Attorney and I will seek to make myself accessible.

As stated previously, newer and more innovative approaches are necessary, especially in times at which funding for essential programs is being cut.

Town hall type meetings will be created and implemented, and I will invite the public to provide input as to the issues they face in their communities.

In addition to town hall meetings with the public, regular meetings with law enforcement administrators will take place, in which I will address the concerns of law enforcement in the area.

I will seek to ensure that the services provided by the District Attorney are top notch and that customer service is our top priority.

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