New DA will target violent criminals
Durham’s incoming district attorney says he’ll make prosecuting violent offenders a high priority when he takes office next week.
Roger Echols will be sworn in as the county’s top prosecutor at 2 p.m. Tuesday by Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson.
Echols takes over from interim District Attorney Leon Stanback, who announced earlier this month he’ll step down effective Sunday.
Because Monday is a holiday, Echols will be sworn in privately by Hudson at the courthouse Monday so the office won’t be without a district attorney. Then, he’ll be sworn in again Tuesday in a public ceremony.
Stanback was named interim DA in 2012 after Tracey Cline was removed from office for misconduct after a public feud with Hudson. Echols, with Stanback’s strong backing, won the spring Democratic primary. He’s running unopposed in November.
In an interview this week, Echols said that in addition to making the prosecution of violent offenders a top priority, he wants to strengthen his office’s ties with law enforcement and court administrators. He plans to begin meeting bi-monthly with Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez and Sheriff Mike Andrews, and to have someone from his office attend all meetings of Partners Against Crime.
Echols also wants to improve the office’s case disposition rate.
The DA’s office has 18 state assistant prosecutors and four paid with grants. The most recent grant-backed position is a jail prosecutor, who is responsible for handling first appearances by defendants at the jail’s court.
Another grant position is a special assistant U.S. attorney, who works on Durham cases in federal court in Greensboro.
“This benefits us and the federal system,” Echols said. “It gives our office more input in cases that are taken federally and prosecuted by the U.S. attorney, and allows them to accept more cases that originate from Durham.”
Echols said that he, like many other district attorneys, would like to add more prosecutors to handle the heavy caseload that most offices face. But he said his office can function with what it has.
“We work hard, and will continue trying to find ways to be more efficient in giving the public as much as we can,” he said. “We’re all in this together, and we want the people of this county to have the legal services they deserve.”
Roger Echols will be sworn in at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Durham County Courthouse, Courtroom 7D. The public is invited.